Over 70 hot air balloons took off from Memorial Park this weekend for this year's Labor Day Lift Off. (Video by Katie Klann & Skyler Ballard)

Last year, event organizers for the Labor Day Lift Off promised Colorado Springs that next year, everyone would celebrate together.

This weekend, the city held them to that.

Hundreds of thousands of people showed up for the 45th iteration of the event, which this year returned to its original five-session format and to Memorial Park after pandemic safety concerns saw last year’s liftoff spread to citywide launch sites that didn’t allow crowds of spectators, leaving Memorial Park empty.

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The third day of the Labor Day Lift Off on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

This year, Springs balloon-watchers shattered attendance records, with event officials estimating that over 185,000 people had shown up to events at the park throughout the three-day weekend to watch nearly 80 hot air balloons and their pilots in action.

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In years past, the lift off has drawn around 150,000 people.

“Organizers continue to honor the legacy and magic this event inspires among everyone who experiences it,” officials said in a Tuesday press release.

The 79 balloons and pilots participating this year, up from around 35 last year, were also the most Colorado Springs has hosted since the event began in 1976.

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The third day of the Labor Day Lift Off on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

For most of this weekend’s festivities, the weather was perfect, with most balloons launching unfettered throughout the weekend. The only exception came Saturday, when winds grounded many balloons for that evening’s balloon glow.

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A crowd watches a balloon glow held during the 45th annual Labor Day Lift Off. Event officials said that evening balloon glows this weekend attracted around 50,000 people.

But for event organizers, the weather was just one of the many things that had to come together to make sure hot air balloons, and the time-honored traditions surrounding them, stayed in Colorado Springs.

“Major community events like the Labor Day Lift Off involve many moving parts," officials said in the release. "Without the support and engagement from the sponsors, pilots, crew, volunteers, officials, staff and community partners, it would not have been possible.”

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