The Great East Texas Balloon Race kicks off - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

The Great East Texas Balloon Race kicks off

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - The stage is set for the summer event that brings top notch pilots and thousands of visitors to East Texas every year, the great Texas balloon race.

This years event will be a trial run for the city of Longview to host the National Championships starting next year.

Dozens of balloon trucks and chase vehicles are already there, where 50 pilots will compete not only for the prize money, but also to practice for next years National Championships.

"I've been flying here for years and a lot of the other pilots , this is one of the more serious competItive flights that we have in the united states so having the nationals here was only a matter of time," Louisiana pilot, Robert Ambeau said.

Earlier this year Longview was selected as the site for the 2012-2014 U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships.

Many are old friends , and some are old rivals, who have competed against each other all over the Continent.

This time, pilots will get valuable experience on the Longview layout in preparation for next years Championships.

"It's always good to have an event that at least one year before maybe two before an event like the Nationals so you can see what needs to change and what needs to be done," smith/Wells Fargo pilot, Elizabeth Wright stated.

The first event will be tomorrow morning around sunrise as pilots will make their traditional special shape and fly over the city of Longview.

For a complete list of events for this weekend's great Texas balloon race, head over to the big red box.

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