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Great Texas Balloon Race events set

By Glenn Evans
July 15, 2010 at 6 p.m.

Longview's premiere event lands at the East Texas Regional Airport the last weekend of this month.

The 32nd Great Texas Balloon Race brings live music, children's activities, and hot air balloons in traditional and special shapes to the grassy lawn and hot tarmac at the airport on July 30 to Aug. 1.

This year's event was forward from its traditional mid-July dates to accommodate a new flight school that will be between semesters at month's end.

The date change means fewer balloonists this year, said Elaine Reynolds, event organizer for the Longview Partnership. Instead of the usual 70 to 90 pilots, the three-day competition will draw around 55, she said.

About 30,000 spectators are expected at the event, which earned Longview the governor's designation as the Balloon Capital of Texas.

Flights take off all three mornings as the pilots compete in guiding their cumbersome craft over targets where they drop bean bags or grab an elusive, oversized key ring atop a pole.

On the ground, festival crowds can stroll a midway of games, arts and crafts booths and children's activities on the airport's main runway.

Cluster balloonist John Ninomiya is scheduled to take flight beneath enough helium balloons to lift his scary chair, in demonstrations Friday and Saturday evenings.

Nightly concerts will follow balloon glows, a Great Texas Balloon Race invention that sets off bright colors and creative balloon shapes against the darkening skies.

Concerts at 9:30 p.m. feature Country crooner Kevin Fowler from Austin, on Friday, and the Eli Young Band, a Southern rock quartet that shared the bill with Pat Green in a June 8 show for the Hallsville ISD Foundation, on Saturday.

For more information, visit the balloon race website at <a href= "" target= "_blank"></a>



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