'It is a great day in Longview' - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

'It is a great day in Longview'

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) – It's a huge victory for the City of Longview, and for East Texas. The Balloon Federation of America has announced that the US National Hot Air Balloon Championships will be held in Longview.

The excitement in Longview was obvious, "We landed the Nationals! Yes! They finally landed in the right place."

Out of 4 cities, Longview was selected as the site for the 2012, 2013, and the 2014 US National Hot Air Balloon Championships.

"It is a great day in Longview, today," exclaimed Richard Lazarus, the Chairman of the 2011 Great Texas Balloon Race, "We don't want to be cocky about it, but we felt like we were going to get this race."

Ray Gallagher, a ballooning fan, says, "I don't think East Texas realizes how huge this is, because this is world-wide almost, in terms of its appeal."

"Longview's always been one of the bastions of ballooning, and we're just reinforcing that with the nationals coming here," stated GTBR pilot, Guy Gauthier.

It was January 15 that delegates from the Great Texas Balloon Race made their pitch to the Balloon Federation of America, to choose Longview as its site for Nationals.

Paul Patrehn, of the Balloon Federation of America says that Longview has a lot to bring to the table as a well established venue and flying area.

The event will bring the top 50 pilots in the country to face off in Longview. It will mean big money coming to East Texas, as well.

"The US Nationals finals brings with it national sponsorship as well, there are national sponsors that follow this race around," claims Lazarus.

Longtime pilots see it as a coming of age for Longview.

"I hope it brings all the success in the world, Longview's going to get put on the map, and I hope it's a complete success for Longview," says Gauthier.

Not to mention, a shot in the arm to the East Texas economy.

Organizers say this year's Great Texas Balloon Race will be conducted by the exact rules of the National competition in preparation for 2012. And, pilots will earn points at the event to compete in that year's World Championships.

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