Big Balloon Weekend Returns to Modoc County

Every September the people of Modoc County celebrate their privileged existence out off the edge of the map with a multi-event festival.

This festival takes off Saturday, September 17 with the breathtaking sunrise launch of hot air balloons that drift and whoosh across the silence of the high plateau, playing the breezes against a backlit stretch of the Warner Mountains. The Alturas Chamber of Commerce serves a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast right in the field where the balloons launch, so early birds can get a sense of just what it takes to get the colorful behemoths from pack to sky without going hungry.

By the time the sun fully emerges from behind the Warners, the breezes slack and the balloons come down in hayfields, churchyards, sage brush and parking lots. While the chase teams race to these areas to help wrestle endless yards of slick fabric back into packs, observers can move on to the Veterans’ Park on South Main Street in Alturas for a display of art inspired by the area’s big-sky beauty and lonely location.

Music about horses and cowboys and wildlife displays for bird watching demonstrate just how diverse the community is, while jolly cook-teams are busy preparing some of the best chili in the west for a friendly competition where a year’s worth of bragging rights is considered the biggest prize of all.

Other unique activities and fund-raisers, such as the Old Bags for the Hospitals Auction, promise more fun, while aromas from the grilled bratwurst, onions and sauerkraut lunch served by energetic humane society volunteers will draw even the balloonists out of the sky and in for a bite.

And, just in time for this year’s festival will be the re-opening of the landmark Niles Hotel, which has new owners and a new look. The “Meet ‘N Greet” for the balloon pilots will be held there at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. For those with a camera and time to spare, coming out a few days before the Balloon/Migratory Bird/Art Festival & Chili Cookoff could make the trip profitable.

The Friends of the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge is encouraging people to get out into nature by sponsoring a nature-themed photography contest with the top prize in two categories (adults/children 16 and younger) $100 for the best mounted but not framed 8X10″ print, $50 for second best and $25 for third. In honor of the Refuge’s more than 50 years in the community, there will be no entry fee: simply put your name, address, phone, email, date picture was taken, info about the picture on the back and drop off at The River Center desk in the Museum on South Main Street, The Art Center on Main Street, the Refuge office, or in Cedarville at the Surprise Valley School District office by 4 p.m. Friday the 16th. Prize-winning photos will be displayed in the Friend’s booth at the Festival in the park.

For more information about go to http://www.alturaschamber.org/events.htm for event times and places.

What: Modoc County Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 17
Where: Alturas, CA

-from press release
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Press Release

-from press release

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