The sights and sounds of more than 70 hot air balloons gather for display and competition at the Great Texas Balloon Race, the last week of July. While it takes a small army of volunteers to get this ambitious venture off the ground, there are several great opportunities for the public to see and feel the hot air balloon experience for themselves.
Imagine waking before dawn to rendezvous with dozens of like-minded individuals at the East Texas Regional Airport where large silk and nylon balloons or “envelopes” are carefully laid across the ground. Watch as the balloon crews successfully unfold the 30-foot tall, 20-foot wide silk and nylon giants. Rigged with wicker baskets, parachutes and heavy propane tanks together in such a way that the pilots will be able to expertly navigate an elevation of several thousand feet.
From there, go check out some of the shaped balloons or an exhibit around town. At dusk, festival goers gather to experience the “balloon glow,” where many of the teardrop-shaped aircraft are lighted up to look like an ethereal, colorful array of bulbous lanterns on standby for a giant’s twilit stroll across Texas. The pilots are happy to answer questions about their balloons and their dedication to this champagne sport. “The event is full of electricity and excitement, with 70 balloons being lit up together, some to the beat of music, and you can feel the energy,” says Gai Bennett, marketing director for GTBR. And because no Texas festival would be complete without music, The Great Texas Balloon Race has a boot-scootin’ concert that kicks off following each glow on Friday and Saturday night.
So embrace the best of what the Lone Star state has to offer in the high heat of summer and gain a whole new appreciation for the power and beauty of hot air in motion. Watch as colorful silken behemoths glide through the East Texas sky. You won’t soon forget the experience.