LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - The morning East Texas skies were filled with hot air balloons, as once again the signature summer event of Longview is underway.
The first leg of the Great Texas Balloon Race started at dawn with the Fly Over the City.
With the traditional mad pilots scramble at six am, the colors and shapes of balloons on the Friday flight has brought fans out in Longview for decades.
"Oh, ever since day one we've been out here. It's a tradition with our family," says spectator Brenda Green.
"We like to watch them go up, we like to watch them go over Longview, like to watch them land---we just like it all," exclaimed balloon-lover Candace Young.
The $250,000 Noah's Ark balloon didn't get airborne Friday, but pilot Bill Woodhead says its a fan favorite flying or not.
"Any event we go to is special, this one is really special because the town really gets behind the balloon event," says Woodhead, "I'm just happy to be able to bring it and share it wherever we go it brings smile, especially to children."
For the pilots, it's the first day of target shooting for points, under new national competition style rules.
"Makes things easier for us but kind of more difficult for us at the same time. So, this just allows us to adjust for what to expect for nationals here for the next 3 years," explained pilot Nick Donner.
Crew members have diverse backgrounds, including television news.
Kansas City TV anchor Mark Clegg says, "I've actually been out reporting in the field when we've had events in Kansas City, so I cover that side of it, but then I get to crew too, that's the fun part."
The event will draw the best flyers in the world for years to come.
"You have some of the best pilots in the world coming to Longview, Texas every summer. It is a top notch place to fly," says World Champion Balloonist Johnny Petrehn.
For a complete list of events, head over The Big Red Box.