|Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun|
If you come across a $2 bill the next few weeks in the Coachella Valley, it probably came from the first-ever Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The two-day, weekend event provided its almost 20 hot air balloon pilots with the spending money to illustrate the “economic benefit to the community,” said city spokesman Chris Parman.
Tethered balloon rides ran from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, when the heat grounded them temporarily, but not before several airborne weddings and a proposal.
“She said, ‘Yes,’ ” said pilot Peggy Watson-Meinke of the proposal she filmed with the lucky guy’s GoPro, while flying the balloon 50 feet in the air. “This isn’t common; this is the first time I’ve seen weddings offered.”
Valentine’s Day “Love is in the Air” festivities also included a wedding singer competition, Theater Square Market full of gourmet food trucks and kid zone complete with inflatable bounce house and slide.
As the evening wore on, those who reserved tables trickled into the Sunset Wine Dinner followed by a “Balloon Glow,” where the fully inflated balloons fired up in sync with music — morphing into colorful light bulbs by night. The third floor of the Civic Center parking garage served as a VIP viewing area.
“We’re local and enjoy Civic Center Plaza all the time,” said Marjorie De La Cruz, who brought her children to the festival. “I like the fact the city is starting to do more community events here in general. It’s nice to see the balloons.”
After the 45-minute glow, spectators could listen to music from local bands or make their way over to a big screen where, fittingly, the movie “Up” played.
The hot air balloon propane arrived an hour late Saturday due to traffic, Watson-Meinke said, and while the morning crowd wasn’t as large as expected she projected things to pick up for the free glow and movie.
“It’s something to do in the desert,” said Siri Boone, who came with her 3-year-old daughter Lana.
Boone learned of the event when a friend Snapchatted a picture from the festival, and brought Lana to go on the slide and get some ice cream.
Fantasy Balloon Flights assembled a host of pilots from California, Arizona and Nevada for the festival. Tethered rides should start up again at 7 a.m. Sunday and run until things get too hot or 3 p.m.
There’s a possibility the Federal Aviation Administration will bar the balloons from leaving the ground Sunday because President Obama is in town, Watson-Meinke said, but pilots likely won’t know until the morning.
Rides cost $25 for people age 12 and up, $20 for kids 5 to 12 and nothing for children 4 and under.
“I have a saying on the side of my trailer, ‘Eternity above me, reality below me, peace in between me,’ and that’s how I feel when flying,” Watson-Meinke said. “My dad flew for the Air Force. I have flying in my blood.”