See marvellous balloons paint the sky at the hot air balloon festival in High River

by • September 21, 2015 • Community, Economy

By Shari Fenn, Content Contributor

High River's hot air balloon festival - watching balloons

Have you ever kicked back on the grass and experienced the beauty of a blue sky filled with hot air balloons gliding silently by?  Their bright jewel colors expand creating a panorama that takes your breath away!

It’s moments like this that you want to capture in a photograph.

Now you can!

The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival has become one of Calgary Region’s most photographed fall events.

If you’re looking for some brilliant shots to up your game in social media then look no further!


Five fun days in High River

High River's hot air balloon festival - inside a balloons

This will be the third consecutive year the Heritage Inn Hotels has sponsored the event in High River.

According to Rick Bart, General Manager, Heritage Inn Hotel & Convention Centre in High River, “We wanted to support an international caliber event in High River for the public, something that would bring joy and spectacular sights after a time of such distress and disaster of the June 2013 floods.”

All events are open to the public and are free.

This year’s festival will host 27 balloons with pilots attending from various countries including:

  • Belgium
  • United Kingdom
  • USA (Alaska, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota)
  • Across Canada

The Canadian pilots will compete for 5 days. The winner of this hot air balloon championship will qualify to fly at the Worlds in Saga, Japan October 30  – November 7, 2016.

The competition’s winner will be announced at the River City Classics 13th Annual Show & Shine on Sunday, September 27 in the downtown area of High River.

The Show & Shine is also a free event and everyone is welcome!

See the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival schedule of events for a daily overview of activities and a map of the site location in High River.


Anatomy of a hot air balloon competition?

High River's hot air balloon festival - balloons in the air
Photo credit: Sollera – Hot Air Balloon 

A hot air balloon competition is not a traditional race in the way you would expect. In fact, the balloons don’t actually race at all.

The competition is a navigation contest to determine which pilot can best navigate the balloon through a series of locations. The balloon flight lasts approximately an hour.

Over the 5-day festival, the Canadian pilots will compete to see who most accurately completes one or more tasks.

The pilot with the best result in each task will receive 1,000 points. All other competitors receive between 0 and 1,000 points, based on their performance as compared to the winner.

The pilot who has accumulated the most points over the duration of the 5-days of flying will be the competition’s winner. To declare a champion, there typically needs to be a minimum of two flights and three tasks completed.


Don’t miss the Night Glow!

High River's hot air balloon festival - Night Glow

The Night Glow is the most popular event of the 5-day festival and it must be experienced to truly capture the emotions it brings out in you.

Night Glow is scheduled to run Friday, September 25 from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Rec Plex.

The balloons are set-up at sunset in the launch area and inflated as if they are going to take off. Instead of being allowed to ascend, they are held down by the ground crew.

The propane burners are ignited periodically to keep the balloons inflated with hot air.  Since the event occurs at night, the balloons glow like huge light bulbs or Chinese lanterns, giving a spectacular display for photographers.

Visitors will be allowed to walk amongst the lit balloons, talk to the pilots and ground crew and take in the general splendor of the event.

If the Night Glow event on Friday is cancelled due to weather, an alternative Night Glow is scheduled for Saturday, September 26 starting at 8:00 pm.


Hot air balloon fun facts

High River's hot air balloon festival - funny balloons

Here are a few facts about hot air balloons that you may find interesting:

Catching the wind: Balloons can only go where the wind takes them – they cannot go against or into the wind. Pilots must accurately gauge the speed and direction of the winds at various altitudes, and be able to predict changes.

Team effort:  A hot air balloon flight requires teamwork. Without their crew, the pilot cannot freely fly. Once the balloon has taken off, the crew maintains visual and/or radio contact with the pilot and follows the balloon to where it lands.

GPS savvy: Some competitors use computer programmers to help them forecast and plan their flights. The use of a GPS (Global Positioning System) to assist with navigation and goal selection is now very common in competitions.

All flights are subject to weather so to check the schedule of events daily.

Remember to bring your camera!

If you plan to attend or have attended the hot air balloon festival before we’d love to hear your experience!


7 Responses

  1. Chrisanna Fagan says:

    WOW !!! I’ve seen lots of balloons but I did not know about this !!!! this will be a great draw to the community !!!!

  2. Jackie says:

    My kids would love to go watch this. Can you please adjust the schedule so that the average person knows when to come by to watch the balloons take flight? I am assuming the time to come watch the balloons go up is during the Competition flight times. Can someone please confirm that? Thanks.

  3. Jackie says:

    The flight schedule I am referring to is posted on

    • CRPadmin says:

      Hello Jackie

      We’ll make sure to send a note to the event organizers. We actually don’t have any involvement with the balloon festival and just covered the event.

  4. Gloria Norman says:

    I have never been to High River and this hot air balloon show looks beautiful and colourful. I am going to make sure my grandson gets there tonight to see the night glow.

  5. Myriam Norman says:

    This looks like a lot of fun. I won’t be in the area for this year’s festival, but will make a note and try to catch it next fall. Thanks again for the heads-up. My family is always game for free entertainment and this one looks spectacular.

  6. Jane says:

    Very sorry that we missed this,did not know soon enough,have put it on my to do list for next fall. I am sure it is wonderful. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts