The small, southern Utah community of Panguitch is welcoming thousands of guests – essentially quadrupling the town’s population – for the 16th annual Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally happening the weekend of June 26-28. Balloons launch each day at 6:30 a.m.

“This is southern Utah’s premier hot air balloon event,” said Falyn Owens, executive director of the Garfield County Tourism Office. “Our red rock scenery is already incredible, and adding dozens of colorful balloons to the sky makes the landscape even more picturesque.”

The anticipated surge of more than 7,000 visitors makes the balloon rally a very important tourism attraction for Panguitch, which has about 1,600 residents. In fact, the three-day festival is the largest event in all of Garfield County.

“We started with just six balloons our first year,” said balloon rally coordinator Cheryl Church. “Now, our launch field is filled to capacity with 36 balloons.”

Taking place near celebrated wilderness areas like Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally attracts enthusiasts and spectators from across the country.

“The rally’s success is an astounding accomplishment for a tiny community,” Church said. “Guests return year after year because of the awe-inspiring vistas, friendly people, and of course, the spectacular balloon glow on Saturday night.”

During the balloon glow, live music fills the streets of the National Historic District in downtown Panguitch, while the inflated balloons sit anchored along Main and Center Streets. When the pilots synchronize the lighting of their burners, the balloons appear as giant light bulbs in the middle of the street.

Other family-friendly activities include a 5k race, parade, food vendors, bingo, rides – including a giant inflatable water slide – and karaoke.

Those visiting the rally are welcome to join in the fun by helping the ground crews inflate and launch the 36 balloons. If the pilot likes your work, you may just get invited to go for a ride!

For more information about the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, visit www.panguitchvalleyballoonrally.com