Photo by Eli Zatz

Balloons Over Bend Celebrates Local Tradition

Hot air balloons take to the skies this July in an annual Central Oregon event.

If you’re in Bend, Oregon at the end of July, you might look up to see colorful, 60-foot-tall balloons floating in the sky. If you do, you’re in luck; you’re in town for one of Central Oregon’s favorite events. 

For the past 18 years, the city of Bend has held its hot air balloon launches and connected festivals as an annual summer event, celebrating ballooning culture in Central Oregon. 

For many attendees, this tradition consists of getting up early to watch the balloons take off at R.E. Jewell Elementary School, and attending the Night Glow festival in the evening, this year hosted at Central Oregon Community College. In the past, balloon takeoffs have been at Summit High School and Hayden Homes Amphitheater, and the Night Glow festival in the Old Mill District.

The festivities at Night Glow include a race through a kids’ obstacle course, live music, a marketplace and a show-stopping performance. At sundown, the pilots reinflate the balloons, and put on a dazzling show, featuring bright lights, colors and patterns against the night sky.

Robert Raper, a balloon pilot in the event this year, learned to fly a hot air balloon in Wyoming, and heard about Balloons Over Bend when he moved to Oregon. “[Ballooning in Bend is] small, very personable. Ballooning is a very social event… I get [to show] people that are riding with me various features of Bend.” Raper also appreciates how the community gets behind the event.

“I think it adds variety and color. It’s a fun thing… The process of blowing up the balloons is amazing, and they’re like flowers in the sky. They’re beautiful,” said Taylor Pointer, a Bend resident, who began attending Balloons Over Bend takeoff because a friend invited him.

“[Balloons Over Bend] adds a lot of opportunities for people to get together, have fun and watch all the lights and the colors, and have all the stands where people sell stuff. I think it’s really cool.” said Josiah, a local high schooler interviewed at Night Glow. “I like that they have live music, and I think it’s a lot of fun to come out and hang out.” 

Balloons Over Bend, a focal point of Bend’s culture, is not one to miss.