Great Texas Balloon Race

The Great Texas Balloon Race is held in Longview, Texas whose population is 80,455 (2010). I know that the purpose of this website is to highlight towns with population less than 20,000, but since I enjoyed this so much, I just had to share. I had a desire to see this balloon race anyway, despite the larger population, with every intention of writing an article.

This annual balloon race was created in 1978 after an agreement between a local dentist, Dr. Bill Bussey, a world-record hot air balloon pilot, and local Longview mall managers, who wanted to advertise the opening of the brand new mall. Dr. Bussey draped a banner on his balloon and flew over the Longview area to assist with advertising.

Soon after, an evening attraction at the mall called a, “balloon glow” was designed to attract and entertain crowds.

Balloon Glow

Photo via website at The Great Texas Balloon Race

It became so popular that eventually it had to be moved to a larger location, the East Texas Regional Airport.

I had never been to a balloon race, let alone ever seen a hot air balloon up close, so I didn’t know what to expect. This was a week-long event with entrance fees of $15.00 (a lot more is included in the festivities), but I chose to go on the final day because it was F-R-E-E. The gates opened at 5:45am, with the balloon launch beginning at 6:30am. Yes, it was very early.

Mom and I arrived at the airport, still sleepy-eyed, and settled in. Like, I said, we didn’t know what to expect and were a little baffled that only a few balloons were present to the side of us, laying on the ground with no air. I thought we were poised to watch the launch, but as 8:00am approached, I was still confused since they said the race began at 6:30am.

Lo and behold, the crowd got antsy and turned around to look at the horizon behind us. I stood up and joined the crowd. The balloons were on their way! Little did we know, we were sitting at the spot of the fly-over!










Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a clear picture because of the morning haze, but let me assure you that the site of those balloons approaching gave me goosebumps.

great texas balloon race longview texas

Hazy Morning

There are two goals for the balloon pilots to try and accomplish:

1. Get as close to the pole in the center of the star, and try to toss a ring onto it. The prize for success? $5,000.

great texas balloon race longview texas

Center ring with pole

great texas balloon race longview texas

Close! A near miss.

2. The second goal was to toss three flags from their balloon and land them in certain areas. Different sections of the ring taped on the ground had different amounts of prize money, with the most being $500.00.

great texas balloon race longview texas

Flags thrown from the balloon.

The wind continued to shift making the balloons miss their mark, unable to get a chance for the prize money, so they continued to fly overhead, to their next destination, which was a landing field located in another city north of where we were.

great texas balloon race longview texas

So close that you could hear the roar of the hot air.

great texas balloon race longview texas









great texas balloon race longview texas

Directly overhead!

great texas balloon race longview texas







great texas balloon race longview texas

great texas balloon race longview texas

Nearby on the ground, several other balloons put on a show for the crowd, but never intended to actually launch.

great texas balloon race longview texas

great texas balloon race longview texas

Can pigs fly? Apparently they can now!

great texas balloon race longview texas

A very happy daisy!

great texas balloon race longview texas

Noahs Ark

great texas balloon race longview texas

There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe…

The final balloon making its’ approach and flying overhead to show off the Texas Lone Star:

great texas balloon race longview texas

Besides having to get up so early in the morning, this proved to be an excellent adventure. I had a blast and can’t wait to see another hot air balloon race. Should you ever have the chance to do the same, please do!

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Great Texas Balloon Race — 12 Comments

  1. Looks like a gorgeous event but I’m air balloon gun shy (no guns in an air balloon please) because a good friend of mine actually crashed her balloon. She was lucky to survive, but has serious back issues. I’ve always got to find the black lining in every cloud. It’s the Irish in me.

    • These pilots did make me nervous. I caught myself holding my breath quite often. In fact, a pair of balloons almost ran right into each other. It was hard to watch, but they were finally able to separate.

  2. We have a hot air balloon festival here in a few days. Strangely, I’ve always been doing other things that weekend.

    Lovely shots!

    • You should definitely make it a point to attend. You won’t regret it, even if you have to wake up early (maybe). If not, at least go at night for the balloon glow.

  3. We have fields not far from us, and on early mornings when the air is still, we can hear the whooshing of the gas jets as the hot-air balloons glide across the sky. Many years ago, before there were houses across the street from us, a balloon landed right in front of our house! The guide rope just missed hitting my car. That was a really cool experience–not the rope thing, the balloon thing.

  4. I always wanted to attend one of these, and go up in one. They have a big event like this in New Mexico where a client of mine lived and he sent me pictures, all looked so fun!

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