How hot air balloon pilots prepare for takeoff in Mesquite

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Mesquite Gaming held its annual Mesquite Balloon Festival over the weekend.

The festival kicked off at 7:30 a.m. from Friday to Sunday with a balloon launch in the parking lot of the Oasis. There was also a nighttime candlestick glow at 6 p.m. where the balloons created a light show.

To begin the ceremony, the “balloonmesiter” gave a weather briefing to hot air balloon pilots and crew members from across the western United States.

Pilots checked weather conditions using a helium balloon called a pie ball.

“As the balloon goes up, it will show pilots what will happen to the actual balloon once we start to rise,” said Josh Lewis, a licensed hot air balloon pilot from Utah.

Lewis has been in the balloon business since 2009. It’s a hobby outside of his full-time job and says the balloon, called an envelope, is 65 to 75 feet tall with a mass of around 6,000 books.

Pilots fly their balloons using propane tanks to fill the balloon with hot air.

“Once the temperature inside and the lift overcomes gravity, you float free and enjoy life,” Lewis said.

Once you’re flying, there’s no piloting. Your direction is determined by the wind. Pilots can only determine whether they are climbing or descending.

“I can pull the parachute over my vent line and let some heat escape from the balloon and that allows me to settle in,” Lewis explained.

The whole process is a lot of work, but Lewis says it’s a labor of love.

“Just enjoying, trying to spread the love and spread some happiness to people,” Lewis added.