The Great Texas Balloon Race is more than a bunch of hot air.
It’s the world famous balloon glows. It’s a giant, flying armadillo cowboy. It’s young pilots and people who have been flying balloons for decades. It’s children’s activities, and it’s music — lots and lots of music.
Concerts staged Friday and Saturday at the East Texas Regional Airport will feature a country music legend and up-and-coming performers who are making names for themselves in country music. Concerts are included in the admission price to the race.
Gilmer native Dustin Hodges will kick-off the musical entertainment, starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, followed by country music great Gene Watson at 9:30 p.m.
Watson is stopping at the Great Texas Balloon Race as part of his celebration of the 40th anniversary of his hit song “Farewell Party.”
Watson was born in Palestine and raised in Paris, Texas. His career has seen him earn 75 charted titles, 23 top 10 hits and six No. 1 records. He’s been performing for more than 50 years. Watson also has been named to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Houston Hall of Fame.
Saturday’s music begins with Virgilio Valle y Grupo Amor at 5 p.m.
East Texas favorite Cody Wayne,from Henderson, will perform starting at 6:30 p.m., just weeks after releasing his new single “Remember The Lost Ones” from his new album “Bad Influence.”
A former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, the song draws from his experiences in war and honors people who serve in the military. He’s committed 100 percent of the proceeds of the sale of the single to the Boot Campaign, a Texas-based nonprofit organization that serves veterans and military families nationwide. The song was recorded at Rosewood Studios in Tyler.
“Once we had the song laid down in the studio, I could close my eyes and see Iraq again,” Wayne said in a statement. “I could feel it … smell it. And I am grateful that I have the chance to tell not only my story, but give voice to the ones who no longer can.”
Wayne was named New Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2018 Texas Regional Radio Annual Music Awards and Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year at the 2017 Texas Country Music Awards.
The night will close with a 9:30 p.m. performance by Koe Wetzel, whose music has been described as “90s and early 2000s punk rock meets raw, hillbilly East Texas country music.” Wetzel took the Texas music scene by surprise a few years ago, as he began filling large venues with his music and attracting radio attention.
Wetzel’s first full-length album, “Out on Parole,” was released in January 2015, followed by “Noise Complaint” in March 2017. The Pittsburg native released his new album, “Harold Saul High,” this year.