The Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival begins to float at sunrise

News 11’s April Hettinger took a ride in the skies of Yuma

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) – The 31st annual Colorado River Crossing Hot Air Balloon Festival takes off into the weekend.

It’s two days of food, music, fun and you guessed it, hot air balloons!

Caballeros de Yuma is one of the main sponsors of the event. Dan Tortolano says it’s an early start to a beautiful morning.

“We start at West Wetlands Park. Sunrise. So get out early,” Tortolano explained. “You can walk around with the pilots among the balloons to really get a feel for the balloons.”

Our balloon pilot, Peggy Watson-Meinke has 30 years under her belt.

At its peak, the balloon reached about 1,000 feet. He traveled about 12 miles per hour, but the speed depends on only one factor.

“We’re at the mercy of the wind. I’m not propelling this. It’s completely under the power of the wind. I’m not driving it,” Watson-Meinke said.

The height of the balloon is equivalent to an eight-story building, and only the balloon itself weighs 265 pounds.

Adding and removing heat is how the pilot controls altitude. It’s usually around 220 degrees inside.

“I burn more if I want to go up. If I want to go down faster, I pull that red line and it just blows the hot air off the top of the balloon,” Watson-Meinke explained.

As we flew over the neighborhoods, hundreds of dogs were heard barking due to a distinct sound in the balloon not heard by the human ear.

“The burners are putting out a high frequency that they’re not used to hearing, and so all the dogs in the neighborhood are barking at us,” Watson-Meinke said.

There will be a light event starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by a pyrotechnic show.

Admission is $2 and Caballeros de Yuma asks for a non-perishable donation that benefits the Yuma Community Food Bank.

“We’re going to do a balloon glow. So they’re tethered to the ground,” Tortolano said. “The balloons are inflated and the flames from the burner are projected inside the balloon, and they are illuminated from within to see all of their brilliant colors.”

Here is a full list of events:


  • Sunrise: balloon launch
  • 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. music, food and drinks
  • 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Food, Drinks and Vendors at Desert Sun Stadium
  • 5:30 p.m. Balloon Glow followed by fireworks
  • 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. tethered balloon rides $15


  • Sunrise: balloon launch
  • 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. music, food and drinks