COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Mayor Steve Bach said he's committed to keeping a hot air balloon festival a Labor Day weekend event even when the existing Balloon Classic leaves after this holiday.
"We will have a balloon classic here, I believe, for many years in the future," he said. "I hope it would be (Classic organizer) Patsy Buchwald. But if not, I think there will be someone else who will want to do it."
Buchwald recently announced the Classic would leave town because of organizational conflicts with the city. The event will cease after 38 years at Memorial Park.
Dewey Reinhard founded the Classic and was the head organizer during its first 19 years. He said city leaders should start now to seek another balloon event.
"I would go to existing sponsors," he said. "I'd go make peace with the city and I'd just pick up the pieces and put out the word. The pilots like it here. The tourists and locals love it. This is a good place to fly."
John O'Donnell has organized events for 31 years in the city, and said a new balloon event can establish a different identity and could be better than the original.
"We can keep it as it is, we can grow the event, we can add things to it," he said. "Sure, I think this community can pick that ball right up and run with it. It may not happen in the first year. But I'm sure in succeeding years, there's enough people in our community with enough talent and wherewithal."
Chelsy Offutt of the Convention & Visitors Bureau said relying on existing experience in balloon events is key.
"A lot of these (balloon) operators are already involved with the Classic," she said. "So the fact that they have a presence there, they know how the event is run. I really think we could turn to those partners who have been with the Classic, get some advice."
Reinhard and O'Donnell hope a new balloon event would build on the success of the Classic by keeping admission free and continuing to allow spectators close access to the balloons.
Offutt said if no event replaces the Classic, the CVB will continue supporting the Cañon City Balloon Classic that debuted on Memorial Day weekend.