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The organization behind the big balloon bash

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By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer


One of the Roaring Fork Valley region’s longest-running humanitarian organizations, Lift-Up, is holding a three-day celebration event this weekend, June 23 – 25, called “Lift Off for Lift-Up,” a hot-air balloon festival at Crown Mountain Park and other venues in the El Jebel and Willits communities.

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The events, which marks the organization’s thirty-fifth year of operations, will run from Friday evening (starting with a 6 p.m. concert at Triangle Park in the Willits Town Center, featuring music from the Basalt-based Painting the Wind classic-rock band) through Saturday night for another concert featuring another local rock band, POSER, and into Sunday morning.

The activities will include balloon ascensions, pancake breakfasts served by the Basalt Lions Club on Saturday and Sunday, and a “balloon glow” demonstration in which stationary balloons are lit from beneath at dusk on Saturday, according to the Lift-Up website (www.liftup.org or www.liftoff4liftupbaloonfestival.org).

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For more information, see the insert in this week’s Sopris Sun.

The weekend events have been in the works for nearly a year, in coordination with the Above It All Balloon Co. of Snowmass Village, the Willits Town Center, the Aspen Skiing Co. (for the loan of event fencing) and other groups, according to Rose Wood, co-owner of the ballooning company.

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Lift-Up got its start in the early 1980s in Rifle, where its main offices still are located, in response to a sudden influx of transients seeking jobs in the oil-shale industry boom that boosted western Garfield County’s population in the late 1970s and early 1980s and created a need for an organization to help manage the social and economic difficulties inherent in a boom-bust economy.

When Exxon, a major player in the oil shale boom, pulled out of its Colony oil shale project on May 1, 1982 (a date still referred to as Black Sunday among local loremasters), more than 1,200 people found themselves out of work.

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Many pulled out of the area right away, but many others were stranded by the suddenness of the corporate decision and in need of help. Stores were closing, and banks were feeling the financial stress of the looming bust that eventually hurt the economy of the entire state.

“Fortunately, Lift-Up was in place and the community had a way to respond,” the organization’s web site states.

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Over the years, Lift-Up has expanded to include eight food pantries in communities from Aspen to Parachute, a special mobile food pantry that serves the town of DeBeque in Mesa County, and a service known as the Extended Table Community Dinner, all managed by a staff of about a dozen people (some full-time, some part-time) and more than 250 volunteers, according to Lift-Up’s director, Kim Loving.

Loving said that the Lift-Off for Lift-Up event is the first such celebration (not counting a “soft opening,” a three-balloon event held last year at Crown Mountain Park, Wood explained).

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But, Loving continued, “We’re hoping to make it an annual event.”

And Wood said that volunteers are still needed, for helping out with the balloon ascensions and a myriad of other aspects of the celebration.

Those interested in volunteering can send an email to liftoff4liftup@gmail.com, or call 970-625-4496 for information or to sign up.

Tickets to the events can be purchased online at $10 for a weekend pass (children aged 10 and under get in for free) or there will be activity tickets toward breakfast and kids activities that can be purchased at the event.

Also, tethered balloon rides are available, tickets to be purchased at the event, according to the website.

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