Balloon Bash/Chili Fest Gets Burn Ban Reprieve

Fears an annual hot-air balloon festival may be forced to cancel have been averted after commissioners granted a waiver to burn propane gas. (image:

An annual hot-air balloon festival and associated chili cook-off competition, which both rely on propane gas, can proceed after the events were granted a burn ban reprieve.

Only last week, enriched readers’ lives when we posted that good ol’ propane gas has been powering hot-air balloons since their modern design was pioneered in the 1950s.

Well today the ‘Pro’ is happy to report that a celebrated Brewster County hot-air balloon festival that was threatened by a blanket burn-ban has been allowed to go ahead thanks to a propane gas-friendly waiver.

The 24th annual Big Bend Balloon Bash and the CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International Inc.) Terlingua International Chili Championship is scheduled to take place over the Labor Day weekend, reported. The events draw thousands of tourists each year, giving a valuable economic boost to the region.

However, because hot-air balloons use open-flame propane burners to launch and remain aloft, Balloon Bash organizers feared the county’s burn ban – which forbids any type of open flame – would apply to their beautiful flying machines, keeping the balloons grounded and putting a dampener on chili cooks’ propane-powered stoves.

Desperate to keep the festival from being sunk, Balloon Bash spokesman Ken Clouse told the Brewster County Commissioners Court that coordinators were taking all precautions to ensure a safe event. Representatives of the local fire authority and police would be on hand as a precaution.

“Hot-air balloons are propane-powered … and are FAA-approved aircraft,” Clouse explained.

And common sense prevailed. Though the court voted to renew the burn ban, it granted waivers to the Big Bend Balloon Bash and CASI chilli fest so the events could go ahead as planned. Despite a prolonged lack of rainfall in the county, the desert landscape at the chili cook-off site did not pose a significant fire threat, one of the commissioners said. However, “we will have guidelines and we will proceed with caution,” she added.

Recent burn bans in some southern states to prevent fires have also granted exceptions for propane-powered fire pits and stoves so outdoor-lovers can head off-road and savour the wilderness this summer.

Toasted marshmellows anyone?

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