PARK CITY, Utah — Autumn Aloft, the Park City hot air balloon festival, will be held on September 17 and 18. Grounded spectators have free access at the North 40 playing fields at 2530 Kearns Blvd., Park City. TownLift participated in the special media event on September 16. The first balloons launched at 8:00 a.m. for a short flight while calm enough weather held. Flights are not sold but are available through the event’s sponsorship program.
The sky was spotted with balloons, making for a beautiful morning view for spectators and participants alike.
This TownLift reporter was lucky enough to be on the very first balloon that took flight, piloted by veteran flier Betty Brown Bauwens, pictured below.
Bauwens is a master pilot with 33 years of experience in hot air balloons. She is also Utah’s Balloon Federation of American champion, which required her to win six balloon races in the same year through a cumulative point system. Bauwens’ achievements in the hot air balloon industry are vast; she said she is also proud to have been the first woman to fly a balloon in Israel. Everyone at the event seemed to know who she was, and some referred to her as “the best pilot here.”
Bauwens continued by saying that “balloons are very forgiving” and that she’s never had a close scrape with danger that she remembers. When asked where her favorite location to fly is, Bauwens simply responded: “the sky.” Her favorite thing about flying is apparently “a soft landing.”
“It’s as close as you can get to being a bird. If you close your eyes, you might not even realize you’ve left the ground, or that you’re moving at all.”
For a reporter with a mild trepidation towards heights, no pilot could have been better than Bauwens, although she did dip the bottom of the balloon’s basket into a pond despite some mild protesting from her passengers. Even with the “splash and dash,” which sounds scarier than it was, the ride was a wonderful experience.