COLORADO SPRINGS — On Monday, Sept. 26 Mayor John Suthers awarded Richard “Dewey” Reinhard the Spirit of the Springs Celebration Award, for his contributions to the community.

Reinhard founded and organized the first Colorado Springs Balloon Classic in 1976, which became one of the five largest balloon exhibitions in the country, the largest air show in Colorado, and named among the top 100 events in North America.

The event has grown from 100 spectators in its first year to a record-breaking 200,000 in 2022. The event became known as the Labor Day Lift Off in 2015 and just celebrated its 46th year.

“It’s the only kind of aircraft you can go flying over the prairie and pick up wildflowers in your basket. and go up ten or twelve thousand feet in aspen and pick pinecones out of the top of pine trees or dip down in prospect lake or the Atlantic ocean,” said Reinhard

Reinhard was born in Pueblo in 1930 and graduated from the Colorado Springs High School (now known as Palmer High School), in 1948. Reinhard became interested in ballooning in the 1970s, earning various ballooning titles and awards. He founded the Ballooning Society of Pikes Peak and was inducted into the United States Ballooning Hall of Fame in 2011.

“If you’ve ever enjoyed hot air balloons in Colorado Springs, you have Dewey Reinhard to thank,” said Mayor Suthers. “We are grateful that he started a lasting tradition here in Colorado Springs that brings great joy to participants and a great benefit to our city.”

When asked about the best part of organizing the event, Reinhard had this to say: “I’d say a special reward just seeing the smiles on people’s faces,”

The Spirit of the Springs is presented by the Mayor’s Office to outstanding individuals and organizations in Colorado Springs.