Great Texas Balloon Race officials announced today that next year’s event will be returning to its origins — all flights, features and entertainment will be inside the city of Longview.
A modified 2021 event provided for three mornings of competition balloon flights over Longview along with mass ascensions and inflations on two evenings inside the city limits. The reponse was so overwhelmingly positive from the community, the hot air balloon pilots and sponsors that bringing the race and its associated attractions back inside Longview is clearly the best path. That’s what will happen at the Longview Convention Complex on Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19, 2022.
The Great Texas Balloon Race began in 1978 after Dr. Bill Bussey met with Longview Mall Manager Frankie Parson and Marketing Director Mary Wade LeTourneau. To celebrate the opening of the mall, 20 balloons with celebrities in their baskets made a short flight. The event was packed. Two years later, Dr. Bussey organized the first-ever balloon glow in the mall’s south parking lot.
The race continued until it grew too large for the mall’s space, and in 1985 it was moved to the Stroh Brewery complex in Longview. Then, in 1990 it moved again — this time to the East Texas Regional Airport.
The airport has been an amazing venue for the Great Texas Balloon Race for many years. The open space allowed the event to grow, expanding the number of pilots, special shapes, special attractions and entertainment.
“The GTBR Board of Directors will forever be grateful to Gregg County Commissioners, Roy Miller, LeTourneau Aviation and others for hosting GTBR on that property,” Great Texas Balloon Race chair Michelle Ford said.
The time, however, is right to move back into the City of Longview, and city and county officials said they support the change.
“The Great Texas Balloon Race has been a favorite event in Longview for many years and has really become one of the things that makes us unique and special as a community,” Longview Mayor Andy Mack said. “We’re excited that the event organizers have decided to host more aspects of the event within Longview this coming year.”
“The race started inside the city of Longview, then it outgrew itself,” Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said. “But as they’ve changed the format and ballooning has changed, having it back inside the city makes more sense — number one. And number two, we’ve got economic development plans for the future for that side of the airport. So, at some point in time, the balloon race would have to move anyhow.”
He said although the event will move back into the city of Longview that it remains “a countywide event.”
“I just congratulate the board on having vision for the race,” Stoudt said. “When it started, I don’t think any of us had the idea that it would grow to the extent that is has to have the kinds of issues that we’re dealing with now. So, I’m very happy for the balloon race.”
Keeping the flights over Longview and returning to the full event format will mean more opportunities to see colorful balloons dot the sky over the city, more exposure for our sponsors and local businesses, and a shorter drive to enjoy entertainment and vendors.
Watch for details about the concerts and full event attractions to be released in the months leading up to the 2022 event.
“We hope the community will embrace this change as we continue to bring this world-class ballooning event to Longview,” Ford said.