(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Memorial Park attracted people of all ages from across the state to the once-a-year event where colorful hot air balloons fill the Southern Colorado skies.
“This is a big stage for ballooning,” said Labor Day Lift Off Event Director, Scott Appelman. “This the third largest balloon event in the United States, nonetheless, being free. Sponsors love it, they come on in and look at it. Whether it’s a remote-control balloon or putting their name on a balloon itself. This is [where] everybody wants to be, here.”
This year’s event featured a drone show as well as a performance from a Nashville artist, Cody Cooz. Appelman shared Sunday night’s balloon glow was the largest turnout he had seen.
“Last night was the biggest night that we’ve ever seen,” Appelman said. “I’ve got to believe there was close to 50 or 60,000 people on the field just last night alone.”
When it comes to making the event successful, Appelman said it’s the work of the entire community coming together as well as just being in Colorado Springs.
“I think the biggest thing is the friendliness and the community welcoming our balloons, our pilots and the crews here,” Appelman said. “That we want to go where… we’re wanted to be, and we’re wanted to be in Colorado Springs.”
Beyond balloons, there were 65 booths set up all along the park so if you needed a break from looking up at the skies you could enjoy checking out small businesses.
For Melbe Sweet, this was her first time attending the Labor Day Lift Off and she shared the positive impact she saw in sales.
“We had a huge group of visitors from all over the country,” Sweet said. “I just sold to someone from the Netherlands. My pansies are going to the Netherlands. I’m really excited about that.”
Inside of her booth, Sweet Foraged Things, were creations made with crystals, bones, flowers and shells. Sweet shared one popular item was the hot air balloon earrings, she also said she was complimented for being a Colorado artist.
“If I have these signs out, people get so excited just knowing that they’re supporting their community,” Sweet said. “And for me it’s really inspiring because I get positive feedback.”
In terms of how the event impacts the city of Colorado Springs, Appelman shared his predictions on what he expects updated data will be.
“From all of the feedback that we’re hearing already,” Appelman said. “Equal to last year, if not better. You know, those numbers will come out in the next couple of weeks.”
Not only did Sweet see a boost in sales, but also in social media followers.
“I’ve gotten over 75 followers on Instagram as of last night, so I’m probably going to have about 300 new followers that are all Colorado locals,” Sweet said. “Coloradans support people who are doing the work here and it’s just really, really nice to have those people supporting me and following me on Instagram and coming down to the gem show and just excited about my products and what I make.”
Not only is the event impactful on businesses, but for one group from Albuquerque, this event helped them inspire others to take a passion for ballooning.
“I love seeing the faces on the kids, especially with the many balloons,” said Matt Mckay, a member of Enchanted Model Balloons. “Not only for the kids, but for the adults, you know, to maybe get interested in the sport and get into… big ballooning as well.”
Mckay, along with several others, was able to fly balloons thanks to a remote control.
“Kids can maybe get a little bit closer to these guys, [they] are not as scary as the big ones,” Mckay said. “So, they can get closer to these ones, maybe play with the remote… the second you pull that trigger and fire the burners they’re hooked right there.”
Labor Day Lift Off left its mark on Memorial Park and vendors like Sweet, helping to grow their business. Although she is a first-timer at the event, she said it will not be her last.
“I do think that this show has afforded me to bring help to build a website,” Sweet said. “So this has been a really exciting event and giving me a lot of opportunity that would have taken me a lot more time had I not come to the show and I’m excited to come back next year.”
Appelman said they are already taking feedback into consideration for what to change for next year, by expanding certain parts of the event.
“We’re going to have some changes, but we’re going to move the family fun zone and increase the size of it over here where all the jump toys are and everything,” Appelman. “We’re going to enlarge the beer garden because it was so busy. I mean, and add more, more capacity in there. We increased the VIP and the lift off lounge this year and I could see that staying about the same and we’re going to change a little bit on the launch sites.”