Balloon Festival: Balloon Teams Flood Pahrump Sky
February is the month for the annual Pahrump Valley Balloon Festival and High School Rodeo at Petrack Park in Pahrump. And last week the balloons were flying high. In addition, there were plenty of cowboys, a rodeo, rides for the kids, and plenty of fun and food for the entire family.
The festival is held in February, not because of the great weather (Pahrump had snow just two days before the start of this years festival), but because of the wind. March, April and May is spring in Pahrump, and those are the months the winds are the most fierce.
The three-day Balloon Festival starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. The balloons are not only there to look at, but for a small fee one can go up and ride a tethered balloon. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, there is a “balloon glow” event where the balloon teams tether their balloons and slowly let them rise, lighting up the night sky with their burners.
This year’s festival was one of the best ones because more than 28 balloons got off the ground. And, thanks to the weather, the crowds turned out to see the balloons, despite the bad weather that preceded the festival.
The rodeo is a two-day action packed event for the cowboy action fans. This festival is now the only Pahrump festival with a rodeo. For a town founded on ranching and cowboys, this is a big deal. Pahrump wasn’t founded on its large gold strikes, but on the numerous ranches that started in the valley in the late 1800s. The rodeo back in the day was the main event, and the Fall Festival, then the Harvest Festival, was built around the rodeo.
The rodeo is a full rodeo with bronc riding, bull riding and all the roping events. It won’t disappoint, and a lot people feel that the high school rodeo is just as action packed as any professional rodeo, for the kids put their heart into it.
Rodeos have changed over the years in Pahrump, Nevada. The PRCA, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, used to come to Pahrump on a regular basis at the Fall Festival, but they changed the way they scheduled things, having their championship in the winter time. This made it hard for Pahrump to have a rodeo in the fall because none of the cowboys wanted to get hurt before the championships in Las Vegas, and thus the big names of rodeo stopped coming to Pahrump’s Fall Festival.
This dealt a death blow to rodeo fans in and around Pahrump, but the Chamber decided to save the rodeo in Pahrump, moving the rodeo from the Fall Festival to the Balloon Festival. The Chamber then made the high school rodeo a part of the Balloon Festival, and this is the second year of that partnership. The high school rodeo partnership with the Pahrump Chamber could be key to bringing back future rodeos to the town, if this rodeo is well supported.
So, for those looking to come to see some marvelous hot air balloons, enjoy a rodeo, eat some good food and enjoy the carnival rides, this festival is for you.
(Photos by Horace Langford, Jr.)
— Vernon Hee