GTBR

Spectators watch the balloon glow at the Great Texas Balloon Race Friday, July 22, 2016. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Hot air balloons, fireworks and music. Lots of music. Every year, thousands of East Texans descend on Longview for various forms of entertainment and nightlife throughout the summer.

“Any given weekend, there is always a lot of activities going on,” said Shawn Hara, spokesman for the city of Longview. “There are so many groups in town that do special events, in addition to ongoing activities from our arts and culture groups. ”

Hara highlighted several events, including the 41st annual Great Texas Balloon Race, the city’s 4th of July Fireworks and Freedom Celebration and the biannual Downtown Live music series – the latter now featuring the Big Pines Blues Festival Junior Showcase.

“The (Big Pines Blues Festival) is not happening this year,” said Cynthia Hellen, a board member for the festival that previously was known as the T-Bone Walker Blues Fest before it moved to Longview a few years ago.

She said the popular Junior Showcase, which has featured Mississippi blues prodigy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Bastrop’s popular The Peterson Brothers quartet and Kilgore’s darling blues rocker Ally Venable, will take place May 26 during what’s being called Downtown Live Double Shot. Downtown Live was extended this spring into the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, with the “Double Shot” being the addition of the Saturday night event. Buddy Flett and Bluesbeat — Flett has been a Blues Fest regular — will close out that concert.

No exception to the summer, Longview’s Fourth of July Fireworks and Freedom Celebration is taking place without a hitch July 4 at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Compelx. It will feature musical acts Sammy Kershaw and the Ray Johnston Band among other entertainment.

The holiday celebration includes amusement rides, food and beverages, an assortment of vendors, a Patriotic Pup Fashion Show and a Tutus and Troops Children’s Style Show, along with a petting zoo, weenie dog races and other activities.

The city of Longview also hosts another summer staple: the Great Texas Balloon Race, which takes place July 27-29 at the East Texas Regional Airport.

“We’re actually having some special shapes that we’ve never had before,” said Rhonda Bullard, member of Great Texas Balloon Race’s board of directors.

Keeping up with tradition, the balloon race also will host musical guests each night of the competition. The Eagles tribune band 7 Bridges performs July 27, while pop country singer David Nail closes things out the following day.

Nail is most known for his Billboard U.S. Country chart-topping 2009 single “Let It Rain,” featuring Sarah Buxton, as well as 2013’s “Whatever She’s Got.”

Put it all together, and Longview is heating up the summer’s entertainment scene.