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The History of the Gunnison Balloon Rally

The Gunnison Balloon Rally HistoryThe Trough Hot Air Balloon Rally's beginning is foggy as to which year it really began. So we will start at the beginning with the Restaurants opening. The Trough opened in 1980 and has been a local icon, and frequent stop for travelers ever since. Opened by Tom Hamilton from Durango Colorado, this was his second restaurant, having started the first Trough in Flora Vista New Mexico in 1976. Tom made fast friends with the “Grover’s”, Mary Ann and Steve. Steve and Mary Ann our Balloonmisters for many years, mainly attended the annual Farmington Balloon Rally over Farmington Lake with their balloon Banana Split. This Rally was so much fun that Tom decided when he opened the Trough in Gunnison, that he wanted a Rally of his own. So with the help from his new Ballooning friends, from Albuquerque New Mexico, the Gunnison Balloon Rally was formed. At first it was no more than a few friends getting together and making the Fourth of July mornings an event to never be forgotten. As time went by Tom realized that the small town could benefit from the extra visitors that would venture here every year to make Gunnison their summer destination. (The Rally brings as many as 200 participants each year.)

The 4th Annual patchThe Rally morphed into a summertime tradition every year around the 4th of July. The Gunnison Balloon Rally is open to private invitation only to balloonist that have waited as many as 10 years to be able to fly the beautiful sky's over Gunnison. Many of the pilots and their loyal crew members have been here from the beginning. The City of Gunnison and Gunnison Valley Airport have so graciously allowed them open access to be able to launch from Jorgensen Park and the Airport has allowed us to share the airstrip with the comings and goings of commercial and private planes forgiving the fact that Balloons are at the mercy of the winds and weather. The Rally is a non-profit event that is funded by the local small business sponsors. A $4oo.oo sponsorship will get you a ticket to a three day event of ballooning and party of rare form. The sponsors often throw elaborate parties for the pilots. Keep in mind that weather is always a factor and we do not always get off the ground to safety, but the fun is in the event itself.

Jorgensen Park in Gunnison ColoradoStu and Diana Barton are the current owners of The Trough and have been there since 2003, Dave and Denise Tennis (current Balloonmisters) are to be commended for hosting this annual event over the 4th of July, and keeping the party alive. 18 to 20 Balloonist from mostly New Mexico and Colorado come to Gunnison to enjoy the cool mountain air. Each team is accompanied by a crew of 10 strong. Tom Hamilton is often here and still part of the history and “lies” that keep this tradition a part of Gunnison.

A special thanks to the people of Gunnison that allow the Trough Restaurant to continue to bring this grand event to the community. If you haven't been to the rally before, you can't believe what your are missing! Bring your camera - it is a beautiful site.

If you are interested in sponsoring a balloon and a crew, just drop us an email at info@gunnisonballoonrally.com and we can give you the low down. Or, stop by the Trough and talk to Stu or Diana. We look forward to seeing you become part of the History of the Gunnison Balloon Rally!


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