Great Texas Balloon Race founder discusses largest event to date

Great Texas Balloon Race founder discusses largest event to date
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 1:31 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2023 at 7:40 PM CDT
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - It’s once again time to head to work with a stiff neck. Why? Well, from looking up at nearly a hundred hot air balloons flying in the skies over Longview.

The Great Texas Balloon Race starts next week, and this time the balloons will be up for seven days in a row, weather permitting.

Great Texas Balloon Race Event Coordinator Bill Bussey said there is a full week of flying because the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship is in Longview the same week as the Great Texas race.

“The Nationals are the top, in this case, the top 54 pilots in the United States. And they compete daily with tasks, very complicated tasks. In one flight you usually have five tasks,” Bussey said.

Some of those are throwing a marker at a target or targets, turning a certain direction using wind and flying through a three-dimensional area in the sky.

“Different scores at different altitudes. It’s somewhat complicated. And the younger people seem to do really well because it’s electronically oriented,” Bussey said.

He said younger pilots develop wisdom for flying balloons and are good with gadgetry and software.

“You see the balloons in the air, and you think they’re just floating by. Well, in competition, no they’re not,” Bussey said.

And the Young Guns, Bussey’s 29-year-old and younger pilot flight, are also competing. He said that program has done well the last few years.

“Fifty percent of our previous Young Guns are in the National Championships,” Bussey said.

Four special shape balloons will be set up at businesses around Longview some mornings. And then there’s everyone’s favorite: The Balloon Glow. It’s at Maude Cobb in Longview, not the airport, Friday and Saturday evening. And something new those same evenings:

“We’re having a tethered balloon, maybe two, where the public can go up on the rope, it’s $20,” Bussey said.

If you’d like to avoid that stiff neck from looking straight up, you might want to get near one of the targets since pilots tend to fly in for a low pass. But where are they? Well, target locations are not announced until around 6:30 a.m. each race day, but can be found updated here.

Click here for more updates from the 2023 U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship and the Great Texas Balloon Race.

KLTV’s Jamey Boyum talks at length with Great Texas Balloon Race Founder Bill Bussey about his year’s race which includes U.S. Nationals, and some history of th