Jeff Dorsten took his first hot air balloon ride during Mesquite Gaming’s Ninth Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the CasaBlanca Resort Jan. 24-26. After landing, Dorsten said he’d have a smile on his face the whole day. By the look on his face, one could tell he was excited for the experience and happily checked one item off his bucket list that day. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

During this week one might wondered how many chiropractors got some business after thousands of residents and visitors no doubt sustained cricks in their necks by keeping their eyes to the skies during the Ninth Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was held Jan. 24-26.

The event keeps grows every year and for the past several have had weather perfect enough to bring out the masses. The weather also enabled all 36 balloons to fly every day and glow at night throughout the three-day event held.

“We are excited for the return of the pilots and their hot air balloons every year,” said Christian Adderson, corporate sales manager at Mesquite Gaming. “The Mesquite Balloon Festival is a site the whole family can enjoy and one of the most memorable events in Mesquite each year.”

People took full advantage of all the colors in the sky and eyes stared upward for hours, some hoping for some killer photos others just to take in the beautiful sight. Social media was flooded with a colorful array of people’s experiences.

Another beautiful sight is that of the smile that spreads widely across the face of someone taking their first hot air balloon ride; this year one of those people was Mesquite resident Jeff Dorsten. Balloon pilots Don and Robyn Stockley, who average about 40 flights a year, also take great joy in watching someone’s first experience; they see it a lot and it never gets old.

They took Dorsten floating through the skies in Moonshine, their custom balloon that was designed by Robyn. The inflatable part of a hot air balloon is called an envelope and the top of Moonshine’s envelope includes an inlay identical to the tattoo Robyn has had for years.

The tattoo is a crescent moon blowing stars into the sky; it’s quite a vision and kept Dorsten’s eyes upward, maybe not to the skies but to the top of the envelope. Once the balloon is in the air, the real vision is looking down. During the initial ascent, eyes were darting up, down, across the valley, there were stunning views to behold anywhere his eyes happen to look.

Dorsten said he’d have a smile on his face the whole day after they landed. The one-and-a-half-hour flight was everything he always dreamed it would be, still, nearly motionless and silent except for the occasional blast of the burner. He happily checked one item off his bucket list that day.

Andrew and Victoria Brindley from Indianapolis, IN kept their eyes to the skies while passing through Mesquite on their way to Zion. They knew the festival was taking place but weren’t sure of launch times but vowed to stop and offer their services if they saw one balloon; they saw several and pulled over to help pack up Moonshine. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Victoria and Andrew Brindley, who live in Indianapolis, Indiana, happened to be in Las Vegas for a builder’s convention and decided to stay a few extra days so they could take a hiking trip in Zion. They were on their way to Utah while Victoria kept her eyes to the skies because Andrew was driving and spotted the balloons.

The couple stopped just to help some pilots if they needed extra crew. They knew the festival was in town, they just didn’t know if they’d be coming through at a time when the balloons were up but said if they saw just one, they would stop and offer their services wherever needed. As it turned out, they saw many. They pulled off the highway and headed toward the CasaBlanca Golf Course where Moonshine had just landed.

Andrew is already a “pilot in training” and Victoria will be one day too; after Andrew completes his commercial pilot’s license requirements. The couple just purchased their first hot air balloon and are excited to take their first flight; it’s ordered but they haven’t received it yet.

Of course, this time of year, it’s much more comfortable to fly in Mesquite but the cooler temperatures are better for hot air balloons. Outside temperatures must be cooler than the temperature inside the envelope for the balloon to rise. They’re both experienced balloonists who were excited to join in fun and welcomed with open arms into the camaraderie that had formed between passengers, crew members and other volunteers.

One of the more spectacular portions of the event is the night glow. Balloonists inflate the balloons after dark while keeping them tethered to the ground light the burners that set them aglow. Pilots are more than willing to share the information about their balloons and ballooning in general with the public who can get an up close and personal encounter with the giant night lights.

The Stockleys, along with other pilots, love coming to Mesquite and who knows, may come back without the balloon some time. The piloting couple both retired just one month ago and will enjoy using Moonshine to make more faces shine now that they have some extra time; the sky’s the limit.