Balloon festival honors healthcare workers, first responders

SALINA, Utah – A beloved event decorated the sky above Sevier County this weekend.

The ‘Eyes to the Sky’ balloon festival took flight with 16 hot air balloons.

The event which has been held since 2007 was scaled back this year due to the risk of the coronavirus.

“What better way to be distanced from everybody else than be up in the sky,” said Josh Lewis, the event’s balloon meister.

This year, the street fair and concerts were canceled to prevent large gatherings.

Instead, spectators could practice social distancing while watching the spectacle of the colorful balloons float in the sky.

“They’d go into their back yards, set up hammocks, set up lounge chairs and they would holler at you and yell, ‘thank you,’” Lewis said.

Front line workers like medical professionals, law enforcement and firefighters were honored at the event by being welcomed as guests on each flight.

“All of our locals we feel have given so much and helped us during all this,” Lewis said.

Lewis believes flying offers an escape from stress of everyday life.

“You fly and disconnect from all the problems and all the worries you have on the ground. It frees your mind,” Lewis said. “Once you’ve tasted flight, you’ll walk around and never look at the sky the same. It is just absolutely magical.”

Lewis hopes the event can return to normal next year, but this 2020 edition may have been the most meaningful ever.

“It’s kind of our way of getting out there and telling the world, you know what, this is a serious thing, but we are going to be all right,” Lewis said.