Great Texas Balloon Race: Great entertainment scheduled for East Texas' iconic event
Jo Lee Ferguson
June 28, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.
Updated June 28, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.
The Great Texas Balloon Race decided to follow the crowd this year when it came to booking entertainment for the three-day festival set July 28-30.
Travis Tritt’s Saturday night performance is designed to play to the larger crowd that typically attends the festival’s second night compared with opening night on Friday.
“Our budget did not change, but the way we arranged it did,” says Jeanie Anderson, who heads up the Great Texas Balloon Race’s entertainment committee with Brant Wright.
In the past, entertainment usually consisted of a Texas country music act on Friday and classic country on Saturday. It didn’t seem to matter, though, who race organizers booked for Friday night; Saturday night would always draw the biggest crowd, Anderson says.
“We decided, ‘Let’s just give up doing a national act on Friday and stick with a popular local act and put the bulk of our resources into a big headliner for Saturday, because that’s going to draw more people anyway,” Anderson says. “It’s an experiment, but we think the logic behind it is sound, and we hope that a lot of people will show up.”
With that philosophy in mind, popular local band Teazur will take the stage at 9:30 p.m. on the balloon race’s opening night, immediately after the iconic balloon glow. Founded in 2006, Teazur’s four members perform cover and original radio rock.
The Darrin Morris Band will return to the race to perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Special Shapes Spectacular, opening ceremony and balloon glow. Travis Tritt will perform at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
He’s a “little more edgy” than some of the past country music acts that have performed at the race, Anderson says. Race organizers are hoping he’ll appeal to a blend of younger and older audience members.
Longview’s Great Texas Balloon Race was born out of an agreement between what was then the new Longview Mall and a world-record hot air balloon pilot, Dr. Bill Bussey. In 1978, Bussey flew across Longview with a mall banner attached to his balloon, and, in turn, he organized the first balloon race at the mall. A couple of years later he organized the first-ever balloon glow, which is now copied at other races. The race later moved to the Stroh Brewery complex and finally to the East Texas Regional Airport.
Anderson says race organizers hope Tritt’s presence will attract people who have never attended the balloon race before.
“Hopefully, they’ll kind of get the bug and will get what the event is all about and will come back,” she says.
Online ticket sales seemed to show the new approach was working. Race spokeswoman Gai Bennett said online ticket sales were up by about 80 percent compared to where they usually were in mid-May.
Decades after the launch of the Great Texas Balloon Race, the event remains important to Longview for the revenue it brings to hotels and restaurants, for instance, and for the recognition it brings Longview.
“We’re proud of Longview … We’re proud of East Texas,” Anderson says. “There’s a lot of beauty here. We want people to come and experience that.”
Great Texas Balloon Race
- When: July 28-30; competition flights at 6:30 a.m. each day; gates open at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday at East Texas Regional Airport for festival events.
- Price: $30 weekend pass, available online; ticket for only Friday or Saturday $15 in advance; tickets $15 for Friday at the gate, $20 for Saturday at the gate; free Sunday.
- Information: www.greattexasballoonrace.com