Soar Into the Skies at The Great Texas Balloon Race

Look up, way up! This June 10th to 16th, the skies over Longview, Texas, will burst into a kaleidoscope of colors as the Great Texas Balloon Race takes flight in Longview, Texas featuring 80 balloons Set against the backdrop of the Longview Convention Complex, the event promises a weekend filled with awe-inspiring sights and thrilling competitions.  It's a spectacle where the balloons are hot, the competition fierce, and the heads invariably in the clouds!

Colorful History

What began in 1978 as a high-flying stunt designed to pull in crowds at a local Longview mall has dramatically risen to become one of the globe’s most esteemed hot air balloon competitions. This extraordinary transformation was initiated by Dr. Bill Bussey, a visionary local dentist whose passion for ballooning turned a simple promotional event into a soaring spectacle. Dr. Bussey's enthusiasm and commitment not only elevated the profile of the sport but also rooted a lasting tradition in the heart of East Texas.

Initially featuring only a handful of balloons lifting off from the Longview Mall parking lot, the event captured the hearts and imaginations of the community, quickly outgrowing its original location. In search of more space to accommodate the growing number of spectators and participants, the festival made several moves, each time increasing in scale and spectacle. By the mid-1980s, it had relocated to the spacious grounds of the Stroh Brewery site, which allowed for larger crowds and more elaborate setups.

Today, the heart of The Great Texas Balloon Race beats at the Longview Fairgrounds, right outside the Maude Cobb Convention Center. As you look up, you’ll see the Longview skies come alive with a vibrant mosaic of hot air balloons. Pilots from around the globe, known for their exceptional skills and competitive spirits, navigate these skies. The race has grown far beyond its local roots, now attracting international competitors all vying for prestigious awards and significant prize purses. Each competition presents intricate navigational challenges that test the pilots’ abilities to read the winds and control their balloons with precision, turning each flight into a captivating spectacle of aeronautical skill.

From its humble beginnings to its current status as a key event in the international ballooning calendar, The Great Texas Balloon Race has grown not only in size but also in the hearts of those who watch and participate. Each year, the event contributes significantly to the local economy, drawing thousands of visitors to Longview and providing a vibrant venue for community gathering, celebration, and shared enjoyment of this unique sport.

Expect the Unexpected

This festival is not just about watching balloons float by. Oh no, it's a full-on extravaganza! Wake up with the sun for competitive flights where precision meets the unpredictable Texas winds. Witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of hundreds of colorful hot air balloons ascending into the sky, a sight that will leave you breathless. But the fun doesn't stop there!


    • Competitive Flights: Balloon pilots from around the world test their skills and vie for glory in a series of competitive races. Watch in amazement as these masters of the sky navigate their balloons through the air, strategically maneuvering to complete tasks and claim victory.


    • Live Music: Throughout the day, the festival comes alive with the sounds of live music. From toe-tapping country tunes to lively pop hits, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Settle in with a picnic blanket or grab a seat at one of the food vendors and let the music fill the air. (Browse the website for the lineup of performers)
    • Local Cuisine: Go beyond the typical BBQ fare and tantalize your taste buds with a diverse selection of local cuisine from around the region. Sample everything from mouthwatering tacos to juicy hamburgers, or cool off with a refreshing cup of lemonade.
    • Crafts: Explore the rows of craft vendors showcasing their unique wares. Find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your trip, or treat yourself to a handcrafted piece of Texas charm. You might even stumble upon a charming cowboy hat or two – the perfect accessory to complete your festival look!
    • Kids' Area: The festival is a haven for families, with a dedicated kids' area featuring a variety of activities and entertainment to keep the little ones occupied. Let them loose to climb, crawl, and slide, or participate in fun-filled games and contests.


As the day winds down, the balloons take on a magical glow as the sun sets over the horizon. Capture this picturesque scene with your camera and cherish the memories of this unforgettable event.

The Texas Balloon Race is a celebration of community, creativity, and the spirit of adventure. It's an experience that will leave you with a smile on your face and a heart full of wonder.

Get Ready for Liftoff

Want to enjoy the festival without a hitch? Here’s how:

  • Early Birds Get the Best Views: The balloons take to the skies early each morning. It’s worth losing a bit of sleep to see this stunning display!
  • Dress for Success: Comfort is key, and layers are your friend in the unpredictable Texas weather. And maybe avoid white unless you aim to take home a custom-colored shirt courtesy of the balloon burners.
  • Pack Smart: Binoculars for a bird's-eye view, a camera to capture the glory, and a blanket or chair for your viewing comfort as the balloons ascend.
  • Evening Entertainment: Balloons light up the night during the glow events where they don’t fly but definitely shine. If the wind says "no go," the pilots still put on a show with spectacular burner blasts that light up their balloons against the night sky.

What are Balloon Glows?

Think of a balloon glow as the hot air balloon's version of a rock concert, but instead of lighters, there's a whole lot of propane. Picture this: it's nighttime, and instead of stars, you see a lineup of gigantic, colorful balloons lighting up the sky like giant, tethered fireflies. These aren't your ordinary party balloons, of course. These are hot air balloons that look like they're about to race into the sky, but plot twist—they’re actually staying put!

The ground crews play bouncer, keeping these oversized party lanterns from making a break for it, while pilots play their roles as the DJs of the sky. Every so often, they hit the propane 'play button' to blast some hot air and keep the balloons plump and glowing, much like keeping the beat pumping at a dance party.

And just when you think it can't get more spectacular, the pilots synchronize their burners in what they call "all burns." It’s like watching the sky perform a choreography with balloons lighting up on cue—now imagine that with a soundtrack. That's right, some balloon glows choreograph these fiery bursts to music, turning the night into an outdoor disco that’s less Saturday night fever and more like a Friday night fiesta.

So next time you're at a balloon festival, stick around for the glow. It's where the balloons throw their own party, and you’re invited to join in the fun. And don't forget, when the crowd counts down, and all the balloons light up together, it’s not the time to make a wish—it’s time to grab your camera!

Why Balloons Prefer the Morning

Have you ever wondered why hot air balloons are up at the crack of dawn, buzzing around before even the most enthusiastic morning people have had their first cup of coffee? Well, it’s not because they enjoy the cold or have a penchant for waking up early. Nope, it’s all about the air—specifically, the kind that doesn’t act like a misbehaving toddler.

In the cool, early hours, the air is calm, collected, and predictable—perfect for a gentle ride in the sky. This stable atmosphere allows balloon pilots (and their passengers) to enjoy a smooth, serene flight without the unpredictability of the afternoon’s temper tantrums, known as thermal activity. Yes, the ground heats up, throws a fit, and sends unpredictable winds that could really ruin a balloon's day.

On the other hand, the afternoon in Texas can be like a drama-filled reality TV show for balloons, with rising thermals caused by the sun’s heat stirring up all kinds of aerial drama. These thermals are like invisible whirlwinds that could toss balloons around unexpectedly, which is not the kind of adventure most people sign up for.

So, while some might see the dawn patrol as a challenge to their sleep schedule, balloonists view it as grabbing the best ticket to a fabulous show hosted by Mother Nature. Floating through the cool morning air offers a front-row seat to a spectacular sunrise that paints the sky in hues that no paintbrush can match. Plus, there’s something quite magical about sipping your morning brew several hundred feet up in the air, watching the world wake up beneath you.

Thus, while the rest of us might think twice before setting our alarms that early, balloonists are all too eager. After all, they get to experience the morning in a way that ground-dwellers can only dream of—soaring above it all, with the day's first light as their backdrop, and without the afternoon’s aerial antics to worry about.

Cate’s Concepts: Crafted for Festival Fun

Cate’s Concepts is soaring into the festival scene, not just at the Great Texas Balloon Race, but also at the Paris and Plano Balloon Festivals. Our booth is packed with handcrafted wooden earrings perfect for any ballooning enthusiast or festival-goer. Each piece captures the spirit and vibrancy of our Texas skies, making them the perfect accessory or keepsake.

Stop by, say hello, and choose a pair of earrings that reflect your style and the sky-high fun of balloon festivals!

The Great Texas Balloon Race is more than a festival; it’s a celebration of community, creativity, and the sheer joy of flight. Mark your calendars for a Texas-sized adventure in Longview, and don’t forget to look up—you won’t want to miss what’s floating by!


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