Balloon Race Cancellation A Bust For Some Local Businesses - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Balloon Race Cancellation A Bust For Some Local Businesses

It's been an East Texas tradition for almost 29 years, but last week organizers decided to cancel the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview because of rain. This is the first time in its history. And some local businesses are feeling a little deflated after all those years of guaranteed profits.

"From the standpoint of the economy of East Texas, this by far, attracts the most people of any event in East Texas," said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.

But this year it's a no-go, and that means attendees will not only miss out on the ever-popular balloon glow, but also local businesses will miss out on the nearly three million dollars the weekend brings in. 

"It's a pretty big economic impact," said Cindy Smith, manager of Hampton Inn off I-20 in Longview. 

It's a prime location for the balloon race. In fact, her entire hotel, 82 rooms in all, were booked. But now she's out 20,000 dollars in profits. 

"We've made up a little bit.  Not all of it, not even close and we won't come close, but we've made up some," she explained.

It's the same story for nearby restaurants.  Duke's Fish Shack is just down the street from the airport and was raking in the business.

"It's really busy, it's swamped, there's aren't any empty tables, anything like that.  So it's going to affect us a lot this year," said manager Rebecka Barnett

There's an empty field out at the East Texas Regional Airport. Usually dozens of vendor booths are set up, selling anything from corn dogs to snow cones, and that includes Charlie's Sno-Balls out of Kilgore.

"Normally we have a line from one side of the street all the way to the other side of the street at certain times out there," said owner Charlie Walker.

He has three carts out at the event and sells about 5,000 snow cones, and now he's watching his more than 5,000 dollar profit melt away. 

"It's a pretty big chunk of change, but you just have to look past it.  You can't look on the downside; you always have to look for the positive," Walker said.

"Our economy is much greater than two or three million dollars.  Its certainly something that we don't want to lose, but because of circumstances we certainly understand.  And I think we'll recover just fine," says Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.

Now, everyone's just looking forward to a bigger and better balloon race next year; and, hopefully for local business owners, some bigger and better profits.

Balloon race organizers say they are out at least 10,000 dollars for musician reservations, but so far all of their sponsors have agreed to donate next year as well.

Tracy Watler/Reporting:

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