The Great Texas Balloon Race--
For quite a few years I've wanted to attend the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview, TX. Every year, when it finally shows up on my radar, I realize I already have something planned for that weekend and can't make it. So last year, as soon as I knew the 2016 dates, I went ahead and put it on my calendar.
As the weekend approached, the weather was a little questionable. But since it was only about a 20-30% chance of rain, my husband and I decided to go ahead and make the trip. We arrive Saturday midday, visited some family, grabbed a Jucys Burger (famous in East Texas) then headed over to the airport early to make sure we had good access to the balloon glow.
The balloon glow was my main reason for wanting to attend this event. I've always thought the sight of hot air balloons against a blue sky was beautiful. But to see them all lit up at night...I was like a kid in a candy store, just thinking about the beautiful photos I would make.
As we approached the airport, the sky was starting to cloud up a bit, but the forecast still looked to be in our favor. We parked and began walking in, only to reach the gate and find out the balloon glow had been canceled. Long story, short...we ended up being stuck in a parking lot during a thunderstorm for about an hour, trying to exit the airport with not much luck, and we didn't get to see the balloon glow.
We were both pretty disappointed but still wanted to make the best of the weekend. We decided to wake up early Sunday morning to watch the actual balloon race, so we could at least see some balloons. I'm not much of an early riser. I rise for wake boarding, vacation and taking photos...that's it. This early morning turned out to be worth it though, because I was able to experience something new and photograph it too.
It took a few minutes before we began seeing balloons. This was the lone balloon for quite a while. He led the race by quite a large span.
Then, before you knew it, there were about 30 balloons all heading our direction.
As a sidebar to the race, a target drop is held along the “racetrack.” Each balloon pilot tries to drop a marker in a target area for extra prize money. If they are really on track, they can try their hand at tossing a ring onto a pole for even more money.
While I was photographing this balloon, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. Then I heard the crowd start chattering and gasping a bit. The balloon was on fire. In the few seconds where there were actual flames, I was thinking like a photojournalist + getting a little scared that this balloon was going to engulf in flames and fall out of the sky right in front of me + praying that this guy would be okay. Luckily, prayers were answered, and the fire was gone quickly. The pilot made a safe landing a few hundred yards away. It was a bit scary for a few seconds though.
On a happier note, there was a penguin-shaped balloon. Now you’re smiling, right?
Hope you enjoyed my trip to the Great Texas Balloon Race. Maybe I’ll have to add the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to my travel list next.