Great Texas Balloon Race

Great Texas Balloon Race
The Great Texas Balloon Race is an annual hot air balloon festival held in the city of Longview, Texas. Founded in 1978, it is billed as the longest-running hot air balloon event in Texas. Longview has even been officially designated “The Balloon Capital of Texas” because of hosting the Great Texas Balloon Race.

The Great Texas Balloon Race was founded by local dentist and avid hot air balloon pilot Bill Bussey. The genesis of the festival was the grand opening of the Longview Mall in 1978. Mall managers LeTourneau and Frankie Parson Riggins asked Bussey to advertise the mall’s opening by draping a Longview Mall banner on his hot air balloon and flying over Longview. Bussey agreed as long as he would be allowed to organize an annual hot air balloon event.

That’s how the Great Texas Balloon Race was born. Two years after the festival’s inception, Bull Bussey organized the world’s first Balloon Glow that took place on the parking lot of Longview Mall. Today, Balloon Glows are an indispensable part of most hot air balloon festivals around the world. The festival went on hiatus from 1987 to 1989. In 1990, it was revived and moved to its current location, the East Texas Regional Airport south of Longview.

The present-day Great Texas Balloon Race is a three-day festival filled with balloon flights, Balloon Glows, live concerts, special attractions for kids, and other exciting events and activities. Balloon flights are the festival’s main highlight. There are competition flights and Special Shape Spectaculars. The most exciting race is the Controlled Navigation Trajectory Event, better known as the Ring Toss. Note that launching and landing sites change daily depending on the weather and wind.

Balloon Glows take place on Sunday and Saturday nights. It’s a spectacular display of color and light that keeps the public entertained. The Balloon Glow is followed by live concerts that extend the entertainment into the late night.

Alongside balloon-related activities, the festival features Kids Land. It’s a safe area for children that offers various attractions for kids of different ages such as slides, bouncy castles, bungee runs, climbing walls, and more. Note that it requires a small separate admission fee. There also are merchandise and food vendors offering a variety of products.

Great Texas Balloon Race

Photo: troy brown




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