The Hot Air Balloon Festival returns to metro Phoenix. Here’s what you should know

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The Arizona Balloon Classic will host the 13th annual Hot Air Balloon Festival event in Goodyear this weekend, filling the skies with balloons from all over the country.

From Friday through Sunday, guests at Goodyear Ballpark can enjoy a variety of attractions, including nearly 100 different food and retail vendors, live music, entertainment, trade shows, and balloon rides.

Since 2011, Arizona Events Group, the festival’s host organization, has presented its signature event to the community every third week in January, with thousands expected to arrive over the weekend.

There will be “something for everyone,” said Nanette Duncan, festival director and vice president of event management for Arizona Events Group.

“We’re really focused on this being an affordable family event,” Duncan said. “There is so much to see and do.”

On Saturday and Sunday, starting at 7:30 a.m., attendees can board one of 18 different hot air balloons and enjoy stunning views of the valley during the morning hours. Additionally, the festival will include a “Desert Glows” event on Friday and Saturday evenings, where balloons will be tied to the ground and lit up in a colorful display across the 14-acre field.

For guests interested in experiencing hot air balloon travel, Duncan ensures strict safety procedures are followed before boarding. This includes routine inspections and the use of weather instruments to determine wind speed and direction.

“The initial wind tracking test activity is an integral part of a successful flight,” Duncan said. “Equipment is always checked before and after the flight.”

Additionally, all balloons are flown by licensed and trained professionals, who are required to undergo extensive background checks before operating any aircraft.

“There is a system that (operators) go through to prepare,” Duncan said. “These pilots go through a very rigorous training and application process to be part of our events.”

According to Duncan, this process includes obtaining copies of flight and inspection records as well as verifying that all pilots are FAA regulated and medically certified.

Pilots must also notify the appropriate channels in advance, including nearby airports and Air Force bases, of the dates and times they will be in the air to obtain flight clearance. This ensures that all necessary standards are met, such as adherence to restricted areas and “no-fly zones,” Duncan said.

In addition, guests are asked to sign a waiver before boarding, and are issued a comprehensive explanation of standard safety precautions and regulations, Duncan said.

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While time spent aloft is ultimately determined by weather conditions, Duncan encourages guests to take advantage of all the sights the valley has to offer while they are up there.

“It’s a beautiful way to see what’s around you. It’s quiet and peaceful,” Duncan said. “You are with the wind.”

Duncan also advises that attendees “dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes.”

Spectators are also invited to attend and “experience balloon inflating and take-off,” with Arizona Events Group ensuring “a spectacular spectacle of mass and color.”

The baskets can hold between four and 16 guests at a time, depending on size and weight limits, Duncan said. In addition, many hot air balloons feature a variety of colors and special designs. For example, there will be a yellow balloon representing KOA camps and a black 3D balloon honoring Vietnam veterans, according to Duncan.

“The sky will be full of color,” she said.

Gates open at 4pm on Friday, and 7am on Saturday and Sunday. Those who wish to attend the festival and book reservations for a hot air balloon ride can purchase tickets via the website website Or at the gate. Volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are also available on the website.

This article originally appeared on the Arizona Republic website: The hot air balloon classic goes back to Goodyear

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