SCOTTSBLUFF — A rainbow of colors lit up the night sky Thursday evening as 24 hot air balloons lit up their balloon envelopes.

The community came out to see all the different balloons inflate, with the Wells Fargo Stagecoach balloon being a big attraction.

Mike Schaff enjoyed the event with his two nieces Courtni and Calli. As they walked around the field watching the pilots inflate their envelopes, he pointed out the inside of the ballooning.

“It’s a great event,” he said. “There’s so many cool balloons and they love the shapes.”

Calli,  5, said, “I like the colors.” Courtni, also  5, added,” And the different shapes.”

The sisters liked the Stagecoach balloon and the bubble gum balloon.

As the pilots started to inflate their envelopes, Miss Old West Balloon Fest Brianna Little and Teen Old West Balloon Fest Jalyn Wagner helped the pilots.

“This is pretty cool,” Little said.

As she and Wagner held onto the strings of the envelope as gas filled the envelope, Little said she was glad to help.

“It’s harder than you think because it’s heavy,” she said. “I knew we’d talk to the pilots, but I didn’t know we would help them.”

With smiles on their faces, they walked around the event greeting the public and visiting with the pilots as the Old West Balloon Fest mass ascension begins Friday, Aug. 16 at 6:15 a.m. and Saturday, Aug. 17 at 6:15 a.m.

“I hope the whole community comes out to this event,” Little said. “The pilots have put in so much work to come to Nebraska and we’re happy they’re here.”

Tammy Radzymski of Gering attended the balloon night glow with Michelle Maschmeire where they had their first experience in a balloon. Standing in the basket, they watched as pilot Allen Anderson of Nevada turned on the burner and lit up the balloon.

“That was really cool,” Radzymski said. “You can just feel the heat.”

Maschmeire added, “It was surprising how small the basket was and it’s hot.”

Anderson was welcoming several spectators into his basket to get a feel for hot air ballooning and thought the night glow was great.

Two-year-old Annora Rutz also had her first experience around hot air balloons. Her mother, Heather and her climbed into Anthony Lard’s Iris balloon Thursday night and Annora learned how to pull the candlestick.

“This is her first time around balloons,” Heather said. “It’s really exciting to see her reaction.”

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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