Up in the Air


Writer Amanda Christmann
Photographs Courtesy of Tonto Bar and Grill and Aerial Solutions

This year marks the ninth of ballooning fun in Cave Creek as the Cave Creek Balloon Festival launches Saturday, May 26 during Memorial Day weekend. Join the celebration at the driving range of the spectacularly beautiful Rancho Mañana Golf Course as brightly colored balloons light up the Sonoran sky. 

Now the biggest single-day event in Cave Creek, the Cave Creek Balloon Festival offers something for everyone, including talented live bands, massive glowing balloons, a military flyover and the best fireworks show around.

Live music and a festive atmosphere launch the evening at 5:30 p.m. Little ones will love the bouncy houses, face painting, balloon twisting and more in the kids’ zone, while the adults enjoy beverages, cocktails and wine, as well as craft beer flowing from the taps of Four Peaks Brewery.

The festival wouldn’t be complete without great food truck fare! Local food trucks and vendors, including Honey Bears BBQ, AZ Wings, Mediterranean Majik, Barns Old fashioned Soda, Wandering Donkey, Yellowman Fry Bread, Doughlicious Pizza, Wok Sticks, Firehouse Kettle Corn and Cotton Candy, Firehouse Shaved Ice, each bring their own delicious style to the table. 

The balloons, some in fun shapes, are spectacular to see. They can’t fly safely at night, but even tethered, they’re something to behold!

Less than a decade ago, when the festival first began, organizers from Tonto Bar and Grill and Aerial Solutions had no idea how popular it would be. Tens of thousands of people began showing up each year, leaving planners thrilled, but scrambling to accommodate the massive crowd.

Each year since, they’ve come up with ingenious ideas on how to streamline the experience and make it more fun for everyone. They established a shuttle service on Schoolhouse Road for parking and donate proceeds to Civil Air Patrol. They added a bigger and better kids’ zone for the little ones, and more food for everyone. They also included VIP tickets for those who don’t want to wait in lines, and who want to make the experience a little more special.

This year, they’ve built a savvy, user-friendly website so you can check out everything from what’s for dinner to when the flyover will be, and they’ve taken out the tedious script ticket lines so you can buy food directly from the vendors.

Bring a hat for the late afternoon sun, and a blankets or low-profile lawn chair to sit on while you listen to the bands and watch fireworks. Please don’t bring pets. The sounds and size of the crowds and balloons make it less than enjoyable for them.

In addition, no outside food or drinks are allowed, but cameras and video cameras are welcome. Be sure to tag #CaveCreekFestivals and #CaveCreekBalloonFestival in your social media posts!

Ticket Information:

Discounted pre-purchased online tickets: These are the way to fly, with new separate entrance for prepaid and VIP ticket holders.

Prepaid tickets: Adults $15, Kids $10 for ages 12 and under; children 2 and under enter free (ticket fees apply).

Day of event at the gate: Adults $20, Kids $15 for ages 12 and under; children 2 and under enter free.

All sales are final. No cancellations or rain checks.

Veteran and active military: Receive general admission ticket at ½ price, must show identification at the ticket office day of event.

VIP tickets are available in limited supply. For $75, you can get into the event, plus enjoy a gourmet buffet from Tonto Bar and Grill from 5:30 to 8 p.m., a private cash bar and private restrooms. VIP tickets must be purchased in advance by the end of the day May 25, or until supplies last. They are expected to sell out early, so buy them online early.

Come join the fun in Cave Creek! There’s no better spot to celebrate. It’s a tradition you’ll remember for years to come!


Event timeline:

5:30 p.m.

• Gates open to public

• Live music by Madison Holmes from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

6:30 p.m.

• Arizona Wing Civil Air Patrol color guard presentation

• Flyover by Deer Valley Composite Squadron 302

• National Anthem performed by Madison Holmes

6:45 p.m.

• Live music from 6:45-8 p.m. by our headliner The Shari Rowe Band

7:30 p.m.

• Balloons start to inflate, come to life and glow. Balloons’ glow lasts for 90 minutes.

8 p.m.

• Live music continues from the Sanderson Ford stage 8-10 p.m. with The Josh Roy Band

9 p.m.

• Fireworks show

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