Windsor’s Eastman Park was a colorful place Saturday morning as the fabric of hot air balloons, most of them multi-colored, rippled against the grass while being filled in preparation for lift-off. Residents of Windsor and surrounding cities gathered in the park to watch the balloon crews prepare, many exclaiming when the fire was lit under a balloon and it levitated over its basket.
Makenna Mascarenas of Greeley visited the event with her grandmother, Aleta Knespel of Eaton. Knespel has been to the Windsor Harvest Festival eight or nine times, and Mascarenas has accompanied her three of those years, but neither had been to the balloon take-off before. Both said it was what they were looking forward to the most.
They were among the more than 200 people who came to hot air balloon launch, which kicked off the 92nd annual Windsor Harvest Festival. The festival, which draws thousands to Windsor every year, included a mud volleyball tournament, a town barbecue and arts and crafts vendors at various locations throughout the town. The festival will continue today and Monday.
“The balloons, I’ve never seen them up close before, I’ve only seen it in a movie,” Mascarenas said of what she was excited for when came to the festival.
The first to take off was a dark red balloon, floating away from the park about 7:20 a.m. Shortly thereafter, the other balloons began to depart in their designated order. The crowd clapped and waved, small children said “Bye, balloon!”
Marla Guzzo of Niwot had the last take-off time. That was intentional; she’s a new pilot and wanted to let the more experienced fliers go ahead of her. But the black balloon tied to her car’s mirror was being whipped around too much by the wind, so Guzzo decided to play it safe and stay grounded. As she watched how fast the other balloons floated away, she knew her decision was a sound one.
Guzzo’s hot air balloon story started 30 years ago, when she was a 21-year-old student in Albuquerque. The city is home to the largest hot air balloon festival, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
“Just by chance, I met a female pilot, and she asked me to help her crew,” Guzzo said.
She ended up in the basket of that balloon, and knew that someday she would own one. She’s been going back to the festival as a spectator ever since. Last year, her husband suggested that they ask if any of the fliers needed help. That’s how Guzzo met Debbi Waltman. Another chance meeting with a female pilot. As luck would have it, Waltman is a Windsor resident who runs a hot air balloon business with her husband. Guzzo joined Waltman’s year-round flight crew, and took flying lessons. Then in May, Guzzo got her own balloon. She’s been up about 20 times since then. Her first foray into the Harvest Festival event may have ended before it began, but she said it won’t stop her from continuing to live her 30-year-old dream.
Thirty years ago, in a hot air balloon, Guzzo made a wish to herself, and the intervening years couldn’t get in her way.
“I said, I want to be a pilot someday.”