This June, the Longview sky once again will be filled with balloons; however, the Great Texas Balloon Race is modifying its event this year out of precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We were disappointed when we learned the event will not include live entertainment, balloon glows or any other festival activities that our community has grown to love over the years.
However, as our community continues to fight against the coronavirus, we can say that we completely support race organizers’ decision to modify the event. Conditions have made it such that we must continue to safely social distance as we try to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Keeping public safety at the forefront of our planning and after careful consideration, the difficult decision has been made to host no public events in 2021,” race Chairwoman Michelle Ford said. “Specifically, there will not be any balloon glows, special shape tethers, musical entertainment or our traditional festival activities. Our goal continues to be to bring an exciting experience to our community through world-class ballooning competition by the very best pilots.”
We understand and support that decision.
In a pandemic year, we are glad officials are making an effort to modify this event, and we are confident that the sight of dozens of balloons in the sky for the competition flights will bring joy to thousands in our community.
This will allow our community to safely spread out across the city and see balloons in the sky at their leisure without gathering large crowds at the festival grounds where the virus would be more likely to spread.
As part of the modifications, this year’s event will feature more competition flights over Longview.
Ford said more than 60 pilots are expected for scheduled competition flights on the mornings of June 18 through 20. The flights at this year’s event will happen over the Longview area instead of some taking place over the airport as in previous years. Ford also said non-competition flights have been added for the afternoons of June 18 and 19.
After last year’s event was canceled because of the pandemic, we are proud that this year competition flights will happen for the community to enjoy. The Great Texas Balloon Race is the oldest annual event in Longview, and we appreciate the foresight and planning to make this event happen in a safe format.
In addition to race organizers, we also give kudos to Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt, the Gregg County Commissioners Court and Longview Mayor Andy Mack for supporting and working with Great Texas Balloon Race officials on this year’s plans.
We look forward to this year’s modified event, and we also look forward to 2022 when, we hope, we will be able to safely gather at the festival grounds and once again enjoy all of the activities our beloved balloon race offers.