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Simpson wants balloon title for Gregg County

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 27, 2013 at 10 p.m.


The next U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship could be held above the Balloon Race Capital of Texas, after state Rep. David Simpson floated a resolution Wednesday to land that title on Gregg County.

"Does this mean there's hot air in your district?" Rep. Ryan Guillen, chairman of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism, quipped as Simpson, R-Longview, described his bill to the panel that will decide its next step.

"We have to make it with some propane," Simpson replied to the chairman, a Rio Grande City Democrat.

On a more weighty note, one committee member asked Simpson whether Gregg County can claim the title, pointing out there also is a large ballooning event in Plano each year.

"Plano is about hot air," Simpson replied. "This is about a great race in the state of Texas. But, I do have (the Plano representatives') support."

The Great Texas Balloon Race also is honored under the resolutions for its 36 years in Longview. The success of the Longview event helped draw the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship to the city in July for the first of at least three years.

Dr. Bill Bussey, a founder of the Longview event, said he welcomed Simpson's resolution - which, coincidentally, was introduced on Bussey's birthday.

"We should be called the Balloon Race Capital of Texas," he said.

"First of all, we've got the national championships in '12, '13 and '14, but primarily because we always have a serious - a very serious - competition. That's what our reputation is, not only statewide but nationwide. And it's gaining international recognition, too."

The committee left the bill pending, which is its policy, and could send it to the Local and Consent Committee where the measure would be placed with other local and non-controversial bills.

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