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Electrifying Mesquite Balloon Festival brings beauty and mystique to Mesquite north of Vegas
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MESQUITE, Nev. -- The inaugural Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival Jan. 28-29 did more than bring color and a level of mystique to the city about 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

With two dozen participants involved in yet another “first” for Mesquite, the gala gathering introduced a level of charm while also serving as the focal point of another (CasaBlanca Chief Operating Officer) Randy Black television commercial scheduled to air in the near future.

“This is the most spectacular and majestic thing we ever done in Mesquite and we can’t wait to have it back next year -- and I’m not full of hot air when I tell you that,” Black roared before heading for the sky in the “basket” of a balloon rising above the CasaBlanca’s west parking lot.

 When the hot air balloons were forming, the scene was actually very mystical.


From youngsters to senior citizens and everyone in between, the Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival lived up to its expectations even though it was hampered Saturday by winds that prevented the throng of pilots from “launching” equipment that made the film “Up, Up and Away” an international favorite.

But following a disappointing Saturday morning that forced cancellation of the day’s activities, the overall brilliance of the promotion was illustrated by yet another colorful event called a “Night Glow” after the sun had set in the west parking lot of the CasaBlanca.

With six balloons staged in the parking lot and the atmosphere filled with music, the surrounding streets were packed and so were the grounds, as pilots ignited their balloons in the dark creating a fascinating show that could be seen for miles, especially by motorists traveling along I-15 just north of the CasaBlanca.

“This one will make everyone forget about what happened this morning,” said Mesquite Gaming Sporting Event Manager Christian Adderson, who was responsible for landing the event. “This is awesome.”

With a crowd so intense that it was elbow-to-elbow in what was truly a festive atmosphere; the positive comments were endless especially when given by photographers who found the event to be ideal for their love of taking pictures.

 Nothing like a little flame to help escape the reality of life for the peace and quiet of ballooning.

“This has been spectacular,” said Melody Craddock, who was attending with her husband, Tom Jones IV, a professional photographer. “You could just feel the energy.”

Her husband added, “It’s certainly a good experience for photographers.”

Ben Draper, a Cedar City, Utah businessman known as “Johnny Utah” behind the microphone, also praised the event.       

 “It’s action-packed, that’s for sure,” said Draper. “It was great and there were sure lots of people dancing.”

While Saturday was touchy, Sunday was picturesque as the skies opened up to the beauty of nearly two dozen balloons that launched from the parking lot of the CasaBlanca along with the driving range at the CasaBlanca Golf Course.

The husband and wife team of Mona and Thayne Peterson brought their “Sun Dog” balloon to Mesquite for the event.

 “It was fabulous,” Mrs. Peterson said. “The shots over the mesa this morning were incredible. I didn’t think the desert could be that pretty.”

 Thayne, 46, added “I am a fixed-wing pilot and a glider pilot, too. The thing about ballooning is that you cannot do it all on your own. It takes a minimum of four people whereas when you’re in a glider, you’re on your own. Ballooning is a very social sport. The people are fun-fun. This is my therapy.”

Keith Evans, 43, of Santaquin, Utah, 30 miles south of Provo, came as a crew member. He is a student pilot who also has his own balloon “Diamond in the Rough.”

“It was a great event and everyone was able to get up and fly,” said Evans, who works as a manufacturer’s representative in the automotive industry. “The glow was good because we were able to get a good crowd out and we were able to get the kids out so they could enjoy it too. The beauty of this is the spectators that come and enjoy the sport of ballooning with us. We do several rallies a year.”

 Balloons over Mesquite created incredible scenes.

View on Mesquite Editor Kathy Lee was lucky enough to be able to ride in a balloon called “Basket Case” piloted by Bryan Hill of Page, Ariz., and was thrilled with the experience. 

“It was an awesome adventure,” stated the former Southern Californian who has lived in Mesquite for six years. “I found it to be very quiet and peaceful while we were up there I truly saw the beauty of our city. Without an experience like this one, you kind of take Mesquite for granted. Getting to see the golf courses along with the beauty and splendor of Mesquite was a huge thrill that I will never forget.”

Ingrid Martell of Sparks, Nev., presented a very interesting educational session to students at Virgin Valley Elementary School. She came to Mesquite with her husband, Steve, so the couple could fly their own balloon entitled “Obsession.”

 “I have three grandkids and they cannot wait to get their hands on a balloon,” she said. “I know from them how much kids enjoy learning about a balloon. I get a real kick out of watching the kids’ faces and seeing how overwhelmed they are. They asked some very good questions and that shows how intelligent they are.”

 Mesquite Gaming CFO Randy Black was "Up, Up and Away" during the Mesquite Balloon Festival.

Adderson also praised the hearty group adding “This event has been beyond our expectations,” he said. “You put on a fantastic show for the city of Mesquite. Give yourselves a big round of applause.”

St. George, Utah businessman Rocky Neal (he flew a balloon called Air Chaud, pronounced (“show”) was also happy with the festival.

“It was nothing short of phenomenal,” he said. “The CasaBlanca went out of its way to make us happy. They didn’t let any problems arise because they stayed ahead of everything. Everyone loves balloons. Everyone smiles. You cannot have a bad time at a balloon event.

Elko, Nev. resident Gayle McCoy said the event was not only educational but also fun. “The people love the balloons and we even had people come out of their houses in their pajamas to see the balloons,” he said. “We want to thank Mesquite and the CasaBlanca for letting all of us have so much fun. We want to return in 2013 and the pilots will be back, too.”


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