Koe Wetzel

Koe Wetzel

About a dozen directors of the Great Texas Balloon Race offered apologies Monday to the Gregg County Commissioners Court for an entertainer’s profanity-laced performance two weeks ago.

Rhonda Bullard, chair of the balloon race, apologized to the county for not taking more steps to prevent profanity from performer Koe Wetzel during his headlining Saturday night concert at the recent festival.

The balloon race board wanted to find an act that appealed to a younger audience but “never intended to bring embarrassment to the county,” Bullard said.

“The support of our community is not taken lightly, and we are extremely appreciative,” she told commissioners at the start of the regular meeting Monday in Longview. “We take the management of our event very seriously.”

Wetzel and his band were introduced to the stage by KOOI-FM program director Joseph Aaron Spire, who was the D.J. for the race. During the introduction, Spire got the crowd started with a chant that included offensive language, and Wetzel later disregarded the GTBR board’s earlier wishes that he not use profane language, Bullard said.

In the future, the board will add an addendum to entertainer’s contracts that sets the standard for what will be appropriate in their performances at the festival, she said.

“We’ve also learned to have very detailed conversations with the DJs who introduce the performers because the truth is the DJ set the stage for Koe to ignore our agreement when he began with a very inappropriate chant,” Bullard said.

The Great Texas Balloon Race, held at the county-owned East Texas Regional Airport grounds, attracted nearly 16,500 enthusiasts throughout the three-day weekend in July, including 12,473 people on Saturday night, she said. The race costs about $565,000 each year to operate and provides an economic impact of about $1.2 million annually to the county.

“Each year, we raise the money to fund the event for the following year, and by the time our sponsors are secured every year, we’re well into the next year’s event, and we already have expenses that have to be expended,” Bullard said. “At a time when many, many festivals and specifically hot air balloon festivals are folding, GTBR is thriving.”

Bullard and the board had previously apologized by issuing statement on The Great Texas Balloon Race’s Facebook and in a News-Journal letter to the editor.