/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on January 4, 2010 at 6:24 am

Hot Air Balloons Glow at Cave Creek Festival

cavecreekglowI’ve always been fascinated with hot air balloons. Until recently, they used to fly over my house and when I’d realize that they were overhead I’d run into the backyard to get a closer look. I noticed that despite their massive size, they floated gracefully through the air with what seemed to be such little effort.

Even though I’ve never been on a hot air balloon ride, something I hope to change soon, I can envision what the experience is like. That’s why the Cave Creek Hot Air Balloon festival sounds so intriguing.

Tonto Bar & Grill and Aerial Solutions LLC are teaming up to host the 1st annual Cave Creek Balloon Festival, a balloon glow on the Rancho Mañana Golf Course. The evening will feature eight hot air balloons, skydiving by the Arizona Skyhawks, food and drink concessions, and live music.

The 11th hole at Rancho Manana Golf Course

The 11th hole at Rancho Manana Golf Course

The festival will start at 5 p.m. with a balloon glow on the 11th fairway of the golf course, adjacent to Tonto Bar & Grill. It will include regular balloons, which stand about seven stories high, and specially shaped balloons such as bumble bees, ladybugs and a Spiderman’s mask.

The easiest way to describe a balloon glow is to think of each hot air balloon as a huge light-bulb. Now think of the envelope of each hot air balloon (that is the thin fabric of the balloon that holds all the air) as the glass part of the light-bulb, and the burner inside the hot air balloon as the filament of the light-bulb. When the filament of a light bulb is on or illuminated then the whole unit glows, the shape of the glow taking on the overall shape of the light-bulb, as defined by the outer glass. A similar effect can be seen with hot air balloons.

cavecreekglow2Crews set up the burner to heat the air inside the envelope in order to fully inflate the hot air balloon in an upright position. What makes this whole scene amazing is that the balloons literally glow from the inside and with all the different colors, patterns and logos that’s when they truly become larger than life. Of course, the effect of their glow against the night sky is dazzling, something that everyone would enjoy.

Like most of us I’ve seen balloons flying hundreds of feet in the sky, but a balloon glow offers an up-close, personal look. According to Vanessa Clifton, who runs Aerial Solutions LLC with her husband, Scott, the opportunity allows you to see how massively huge they are. Guests at this event can interact with the balloon crews and pilots, and a “balloon meister” will encourage crowd participation.

Balloons will be on display until about 7:30 or 8 p.m., depending on weather. At that point, a parachute team, the Arizona Skyhawks will descend from the sky in specially lit jumpsuits.


The outdoor patio at Tonto Bar & Grill

Tonto Bar & Grill, one of my favorite restaurants is the perfect vantage point for viewing the festivities. The outdoor patio overlooks the golf course making it one of the best spots to relax with dinner and a drink.

The rustic charm of this 1940s Dude Ranch and the impressive wine list and Southwestern cuisine creates a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that always brings me back. I recommend the “Tontorita,” a special take on the margarita, which has become one of my favorite local margaritas.

Seating is first-come, first served at the restaurant. They will also sell cash-only concessions on the course, including hot cocoa, Kahlua-flavored coffees, Irish coffee, beer and wine, and food.

Throughout the balloon glow and afterward, Remedy will entertain the crowd with live music.

I’ve seen these magnificent balloons lit up for balloon glows before, but only from a distance. This will be my first chance to see them up close and for a nominal fee of $5 per person. It makes for a romantic date night or a fun adventure for children.

Cave Creek Balloon Festival
Tonto Bar & Grill
5736 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek (map)

Saturday, January 9
5-10:30 p.m.

$5; age 5 and under free.

No lawn chairs, dogs or outside food and beverages. Food and drinks will be sold on site.

Available on the Rancho Mañana Golf Course driving range and at Rancho Mañana Golf Course. Overflow parking with shuttle bus service will be behind the U.S. Post Office in the center of Cave Creek.

Photos from personal collection and flickr:
Hot Air Balloon
Balloon festival

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  • Jenni Ingersoll says:

    The opening festivities for the Indiana State Fair is a balloon race. The night before, participants pull out the balloons to ready them for the race, and as such hold a balloon glow. It is one of our favorite family events. Amazing colors, incredible sounds and heat if you are up close!

  • heather says:


    That sounds like a great event. I’m hoping that this one draws many people and they make it a tradition.


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