The Arkansas Valley Balloon Festival on Saturday and Sunday was the best Rocky Ford has hosted for several years, officials said.

The winds aloft were cooperating and the weather was sunny, although quite chilly.

Balloon Meister Marty Hill opened the weather report, “There’s a gigantic high all over the United States!” on Saturday morning. He followed with a barrage of technical information about wind speeds at various altitudes from different localities affecting the festival launch site at Innovative Water Technologies near Rocky Ford.

As Hill finished, one balloon pilot summed it up: “In other words, it is seriously clear.”

The festival had 26 balloons registered, and the launching on Saturday looked as though they might all be participating, as balloons were rising and blooming all over the launch site.

Usually the balloons drift north/northwest over the Arkansas River, but this year the bridges over the Arkansas River at Highway 71 and the one at Ryan’s Ponds were both out, meaning balloons drifting that way would have to use the bridge at Manzanola to get back home.

Following the balloons from the ground is a necessity for the balloon crews and trailers, but a thrilling and sometimes risky pursuit for others. Most balloons touch down at least once and most change crews to let more people enjoy the sail through the sky on a sunny day like Saturday and Sunday.

The traditional candle stick parade was held on Main Street in Rocky Ford at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Methodist Church served sweet rolls and burritos at the launch site for breakfast.

Judy Hensley reported of the Sunday launch: “It was just perfect — the best launch in years!”

bmcfarren@ljtdmail.com