A weekend spent in Longview, Texas can never be wasted, but it’s probably better spent at the Great Texas Balloon Race. Chock full of live music events, kid-friendly fun, and the competition itself, the GTBR is a weekend like you’ve never spent before. If you’re a fan of hot air balloons (and really, who isn’t??), you’ll have a blast!
Back in 1978, a local Longview business manager made an agreement with a hot air balloon pilot. They wanted to advertise their mall and Bill Bussey agreed to help them by flying over the city with a banner on his balloon. Just two years later, the first mall sponsored balloon event happened. Called the “Balloon Glow”, the event featured tethered balloons that were lit up for the evening, and slowly the GTBR began to take shape.
The first ever GTBR was held at the Stroh’s Brewery when the crowds became too big for the mall parking lot. In 1990, it became the event it is these days by moving its location to the East Texas Regional Airport and featuring the races of today. While they still illuminate the balloons for the “Glow”, the crowd-pleasers are the actual races where balloons pilots try to reach a ring that is suspended at the top of a twenty-foot pole. The event runs over a weekend in July and event goers can purchase their tickets online ahead of time or when they arrive at the event. However, one thing that needs to be understood is that the event is weather dependent and ticket prices will not be refunded should the event be canceled. Event organizers usually make their call about the event as the weekend approaches, so if you’re traveling to get there, keep your eyes on the weather.
On opening day, the festivities begin at 630AM and go until the afternoon on Sunday with the crowd favorite ring toss event happening that day. Attendees will experience concerts, balloon race events, and then every night –the glow event. With tons of activities set up for the kids to enjoy, it is easy to spend the full day at the GTBR, but most people make the choice to camp out to enjoy the whole weekend.
With the influx of electronics, it seems silly that an airfield full of lit up balloons could produce the kind of fun that can be had at the GTBR, but testimonials of attendees don’t lie. The glow brings the people out in droves and they always have a blast as they watch the friendly competition between the pilots and stick around for the concerts. Happening in late July for 2018, get away from the TV for the weekend, grab the family and some camping supplies, and head out to the Great Texas Balloon for the weekend.