“Forty years ago, the futures of Steve and Cindy Wilkinson and the city of Cathedral City were set in stone.

The couple formed Fantasy Balloon Flights in 1981, starting with a single, two-person balloon offering private charter flights with brunch at the Indian Wells Date Gardens (now a strip mall). That same year, Cathedral City became the second to last desert city to incorporate. La Quinta was the last to do so in 1982.

The two entities became partners seven years ago when Steve Wilkinson convinced the city to expand upon its idea of including a hot air balloon at a fall festival. “They wanted one balloon out there,” Steve says, “to bring attention to the city and the event. So I said to them, ‘If you want to spend so much money for one balloon, we could probably do 10 balloons for just a little bit more money and put on a real event.’”

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From that first year, the festival now attracts more than 15,000 people and has expanded to include more venues and activities. “Sometimes it just takes the right timing, and you don’t know it until you are in it,” Steve says. “I was lucky. I was at the right place at the right time.”

The Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival and Food Truck Fiesta lifts off again Nov. 19-21 at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa. The weekend includes live music, an art show, tethered balloon rides and more, utilizing the downtown park area in front of city hall, the city’s new outdoor amphitheater, Big League Dreams Sports Park, and Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage.

The festival is not the end of the flying season for the Wilkinsons. In fact, it’s just the beginning that extends into May, and then business moves to cities closer to the coast like Ventura and Temecula.

Palm Springs Life spoke further with Steve and Cindy Wilkinson about flying hot air balloons, how you should be prepared if you want to take a flight, and how the business made it through the pandemic…”

[Read the full interview at palmspringslife.com]