If you love the “balloon glow” portion of a hot air balloon festival, you’ve got to know that the initial illumination of these gigantic flying gondolas took place at the Great Texas Balloon Race back in 1980.
Many pilots on the circuit call this Texas event the best run, and competitive spirits from the world over converge on Longview to race and show crowds how much fun the sport can be. Not only is flying through the blue sky an exhilarating insight into the wonders of nature, but it is also a show of grace.
Come to the East Texas Regional Airport, where a lot of the activities take place. With the Great Texas Balloon Race, there are events where, after a pilot briefing, the competitors drive to various launching positions.
There are special shaped balloons inflated for viewing at multiple locations around Longview. Other displays, such as the glow, are on the airfield. Because this event is spread out, visit the website for up to the minute details. There are bands on stage at the venue to entertain you. Visit the vendor booths, have a bite to eat, and let the children explore Kids Land.
Park your RV at the fest for a weekend of glorious color and thrilling exposition. It will be a road trip you won’t soon forget.
Buy a ticket for a day, or plan to attend all weekend. Children under 12 are admitted free to this family-oriented introduction to the world of hot air balloon competition. It’s a bargain for sure, with daily tickets usually costing less than $25. To look at pricing of weekend passes or to see the schedule, visit www.greattexasballoonrace.com.
Start the road trip by choosing your road alert station for the journey. Local radio stations are ideal for weather and traffic-related information. I-20 leads you near Longview and just north of the East Texas Regional Airpot from many locations. Take time to enjoy the scenery as you pass through the green rural areas. If you have time, visit the Guthrie Trail on your way in as a pit stop to stretch your legs before heading to the Great Texas Balloon Race camping area.
There is parking at the East Texas Regional Airport, where many of the events take place. It is free for all attendees, and parking assistants will be on hand to direct traffic and point to the best spot available for your rig. Parking areas will be congested, so be sure to make a visual note of where you left your tow vehicle or RV to find it more easily at day’s end.
Check the Longview Transit website for detailed route information and determine whether taking the bus suits your needs and schedule. You can make a phone call, if necessary, to clarify the stops and last pickup time of the day. Alternatively, choose to try the taxi or ride-sharing services available.
Camping at the Great Texas Balloon Race is a thrill. Delight the family by setting up your rig close to the fun. Prices are reasonable, and camping here ensures the family will not miss a single airfield launch. There are no amenities, although there is an option to fill your water tank away from the RV site. There is a mobile tank pump service. Advise of the need upon check-in.
Texas is known for its wide-open spaces and RVers who want the same won’t have trouble finding a campground that fits the bill within 15 miles of the airport venue. Sites are described as oversized, peaceful, and with plenty of elbow room; living large is where it’s at in Texas. Longview and the surrounding areas are an antique lover’s dream, with Gladewater being an oft’ mentioned destination. Camp under the expansive skies of East Texas and appreciate the acreages to explore at every turn.
The venue is a large one, so your most comfortable shoes are an essential part of your festival apparel. Pack rain boots in the event of rain and hope for sneaker weather all weekend. Stroller and wagons are the best mode of transport for the little ones and provide seating, too. Wheelchairs and motorized mobility vehicles are allowed but keep in mind that the terrain is uneven. You may want assistance navigating the field.
Days will be hot in June in Texas, so plan to delight in the warmth of the sun. Dress lightly in flowing clothes that allow the breeze, if there is one, to flow through. A cover-up for the shoulders is a must, as is a large and floppy hat to protect your face, ears, and neck. Bring along closed-toe shoes as well as sandals for a change of footwear mid-day. Pack rain gear too, so that you can continue a fun weekend without missing a beat.
Pack your cooler with snacks and drinks (no glass, please) and remember, there is a variety of food at the festival as well. Lawn chairs make for comfy seating while viewing the balloons, and a blanket is ideal for the kids to have a picnic and then rest. For the RV, essentials include flashlights for admiring the Texas stars, a small radio, toiletries, pots, pans, and utensils.
When preparing a backpack for the day, include sunscreen and apply it several times throughout the day. Bring along bottles of water or plan to purchase beverages to quench the thirst. Remind the kiddos to pack or wear their hats. Back at camp, store food in a refrigerator or cooler with plenty of ice, placed in a shady spot. Buy ice on the way back to camp to ensure that cold food storage is at its optimum all weekend long.
Cooking over a campfire in Texas calls for a cast iron skillet. Broccoli and cheese, green beans with parmesan, and roasted carrots come to mind right off the bat. Of course, bacon and eggs to start the day, and steaks to finish it off are meal options that suit the great Texas outdoors. Stock up your supplies before leaving home: charcoal briquets, propane, and fresh water are essentials.
Head into Longview central to check out some authentic Texan cooking. Catfish and crawfish, ribs and chicken, and hearty mac and cheese are local favorites. Branch out and treat your taste buds to Pad Thai or Japanese sushi. The kids may want to stay with the familiar and enjoy a wood-fired pizza. Give the cook a night off, finishing the evening with a delectable dessert.
Food vendors require tickets that you purchase with cash, so be sure to buy what you need and enjoy the variety of delicious eats. Arts and crafts vendors display their handiwork, and it is an excellent opportunity to take a piece of Texas home with you. Some merchandise vendors may accept credit or debit, but there are ATMs inside the festival gates for your convenience.
Smoking is not permitted at the festival. Propane is in use, which makes a stray spark a hazard. There is also a risk of hot ash damaging the fabric of a balloon. Your bags will be searched upon entry; you can bring in your alcohol as long as there are no glass containers. Local law enforcement officers are stationed near the front gate and can assist if you need.
The weather plays a big part in a balloon festival. Most of the time, the balloons can take off even if the schedule is altered slightly. The pilots do have to assess the weather outlook each day to plan the day’s events. Rain and wind can keep the balloons grounded if stability or safety is an issue at any time. The event organizers strive to provide entertainment no matter the conditions. Come and chat with the balloon crews and give the kids a fun day at Kids Land.
Emergencies at the festival can be attended to near the front gate at the law enforcement tent. Trained volunteers are happy to help in the event you need them. At camp, minor accidents are part of the experience, so be prepared with colorful band-aids, stickers, antibiotic cream, and after bite spray for little bumps, bites, and scrapes.