Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be refunded if weather conditions cause changes, cancellations or delays?
Unfortunately, the weather is out of our control and there are no refunds or rainchecks for the event. The Great Texas Balloon Race is an outdoor event and is at the mercy of Mother Nature. While it may be necessary to cancel some events or attractions that are a part of the festival, only once has the entire festival been cancelled due to weather, and that decision was made days in advance. If weather conditions do impact the event, we will proceed with as many attractions and events as possible while keeping in mind the safety of our guests and volunteers.
Why are the Balloon Glows sometimes cancelled?
First, please know that we want to deliver on all the planned events. Anytime we have to cancel an event or attraction, it has been a thoughtful and agonizing decision. The pilots have come from all over the country and in some cases from other countries to compete and to participate in this event. It’s what they live for. Sometimes weather conditions that may not seem significant to our guests are very significant to the organizers and pilots. Wind conditions must be calm and stable for the Balloon Glows. The pilots must be able to keep the tethered balloons in an upright and stable position for the Glow. Remember, we are inflating large envelopes made of fabric and then heating the air with propane burners. A big gust of wind could cause the tether to be lost or the burners to ignite the envelope fabric. Wet ground conditions are also a consideration. Many times the rain has stopped but the ground is still wet. When the balloon envelope is laid out on the ground before and after inflation it will absorb water on the ground. That envelope cannot be packed away wet because mold and mildew will quickly develop and damage the fabric. Considering that a racing balloon can represent an investment of as much as $100K, we simply cannot risk such damage to the equipment.
If conditions will not allow us to inflate balloons for a Glow, we usually will do a “candlestick burn.” This is where the pilot will put the basket or gondola out and without inflating the envelope will ignite the burners for a flame that will light up the field and sky. It is not our first choice, but can still be quite a visual treat with the field full of 40-60 burners aglow.
How can I find out if weather will impact the event and cause cancellations or delays?
We will continue to monitor weather conditions and keep you informed of any changes. Please stay tuned to our Facebook page and our website for the latest information regarding weather impact changes.
Where can I find admission prices?
Tickets are available online, at the gate and may also be purchased at East Texas area Brookshires and Super 1 Foods.
Children 12 and under are admitted FREE.
Active military are admitted FREE with valid military ID.
Weekend passes are available online.
FREE admission on Sunday.
To purchase tickets online:
Click here >> Outhouse Tickets
May I purchase a ride in a balloon during the GTBR?
Because the Great Texas Balloon Race is a competitive event, rides for hire are not available. Our pilots are the best in the world and they are fiercely competing for several different major titles. Most are flying in gondolas that are very small and designed for the pilot alone. For these reasons, rides for hire are not something we offer. However, many of the pilots do offer commercial flights at other times. You are welcome to ask them about their for-hire services and set up a flight at another time.
Do I need a ticket for the concerts AND the Balloon Glows?
We sell all-inclusive festival tickets for the day or weekend. This means you can enjoy all we have to offer with just one low ticket price.
Click Here >> Outhouse Tickets
Do you accept checks or credit cards?
Checks are not accepted. Tickets may be purchased online using a credit card or at the gate with cash. Food Vendors accept food tickets only that must be purchased with cash. Merchandise Vendors determine on their own what type of tender they will accept. This varies from vendor to vendor and is at their own discretion. ***ATMs will be available inside the gate for your convenience***
How close can we get to the balloons during the Balloon Glow?
The balloons are displayed in the field among the crowd so you must use your best judgement while keeping safety of your family and friends in mind.
How can I find out who the Pilots are and what balloons they are flying?
We have each pilot and their balloons listed here for your convenience.
Click Here >> Pilots and their Balloons
Where will the balloons be launching and landing?
Pretty much anywhere they want to. Really, it’s true. There are no set launch or landing locations. The pilots are given target locations for the competitive flights each morning at the briefing. Once they have the location of the targets, they then examine wind conditions and choose a location to launch that they think will give them the best chance to hit the targets. Rules say they must launch at least two miles from the first target location. Similarly, they choose their landing site after passing the last target of the day by where the wind has taken them. Pilots are issued a competition map of the area that indicates areas where they may not launch, land or pass over. These areas may be off limits because they are private properties and the landowners have indicated they do not wish to have balloons on their land. Sometimes these off limit areas are deemed unsafe to launch or land on.
Where can I watch the balloons launch?
The best way to watch the launches is to come to the location of the pilot briefing, wait for the pilots to adjourn and then follow them to whichever launch spot they choose. Here’s what you need to know:
- Friday’s pilot briefing is at Maude Cobb Convention Center at 6am.
- Saturday and Sunday's pilot briefings are at LeTourneau Aviation Center at East Texas Regional Airport at 6am.
- You won't be allowed inside the briefing, but that's ok, you can visit with the balloon crews as you wait.
- Once the pilots come out of the briefing, they will be in a hurry and it may seem a little chaotic, so please don't get in their way.
- You can follow the pilots as they leave the briefing and find their desired launch points. If you are following the pilot's chase vehicle, please keep a few things in mind:
- Be prepared for frequent and quick stops
- Chances are there will be some U-turns and changing of minds
- They may pull over to the side of the road and release a helium balloon and watch it float away
- Please obey all traffic laws and keep road safety in mind
- If the pilots launch on private property, they probably have permission to be there, but you don’t. Be respectful of private property and watch from a distance.
- Often a group of pilots will launch together in one spot and it is really a treat to watch two to six balloons inflate and ascend together. Others will launch alone.
- Pick up some donuts or bagels on the way and make a morning of it. It’s all fun.
Where will the targets be?
There are usually several tasks and/or targets for each competitive flight. These are not decided upon until the morning of the flight and they are released to the pilots first. Some targets and tasks are in the air and not really discernable to the viewer on the ground. For Friday’s competitive flight, if there are any targets that are accessible to and safe for viewers, we will post those locations on our Facebook page and on the homepage of www.gtbr.net immediately following the pilot briefing. Saturday and Sunday’s flights will have targets in the festival grounds infield at East Texas Regional Airport. One of the targets for both days is the Ducks on the Pond. There will be a fishing boat in the infield and the pilots will attempt to swoop in close enough to drop a rubber ducky into the boat. This task has a $5000 cash prize and is always one of the best and most exciting opportunities to watch the real competition of the event.
Will I be able to see the target areas?
Yes. There will be a large area around each target that will be marked off. Measuring team members will be around this perimeter to make sure that no one enters the target zone. It is critical to the integrity of the competition that no marker on the ground is touched, moved or tampered with by anyone until it is logged by the measuring team. If a pilot’s marker lands outside the target zone, please do not touch or move it. The measuring team will retrieve the marker.
Is this really a race, or what?
Well, it's not a speed race, but time does count. The balloon pilots are competing really in navigational tasks. There are targets on the ground that they try hit with bean bag markers and tasks in the air that they try to complete. The ground targets are fun for us on the ground to watch. There is the "toss" task where the pilot may wind up and toss his bean bag marker onto the target. There is also a "gravitational drop" task, where the pilot must simply drop the marker without the benefit of a toss. This necessitates the pilot's balloon be directly over the target. They are awarded points according to how close their marker is to the target. The pilot must not touch down or land within the target zone. Points are deducted if they do.
Some tasks are in the air so the grounded spectator may not be aware of them. For instance, a task may be a designated point (longitude, latitude and altitude) that the pilot wants to pass through. Each pilot carries an electronic GPS logger that records their position every few seconds so that their position in proximity to the to the task is determined.
Pilots must launch their balloons at least two miles from the first target, so finding the perfect launch point that will put them in the right wind is crucial. Each target or task is only open for a specific window of time. If a pilot doesn't make it to the target in time, no points are awarded. Targets and tasks are determined each morning and revealed to the pilots at the morning briefings.
Where can I find out what day and time each activity will take place?
Click here >> Schedule
May I bring my pet?
Pets are not allowed. Service animals only will be allowed in the gate.
Will there be any activities for children?
Of course! Our festival is fun for the whole family and we definitely have attractions for the kiddos too!
Click Here >> Kids Land
May I bring my own cooler to the festival?
Yes, coolers are allowed. Feel free to bring your own beverages and snacks, however glass of any kind is prohibited. Plastic and can containers ONLY.
May I bring my drone?
No. Drones are not permitted by the FAA on or around airport facilities.
What kind of seating can I expect?
Our festival takes place in a field at the airport so there is no permanent seating. Feel free to bring your own folding chairs and/or blankets to enjoy the event.
Who are the bands that will be playing on Friday and Saturday?
Click Here >> Live Music Info
Is smoking permitted?
No. Smoking is prohibited due to the possibility of propane fires or explosions. The balloon fabric can also be damaged by a stray spark or hot ash. It is customary to find a strict non-smoking rule at most balloon festivals.
Is alcohol permitted?
Alcohol is permitted in plastic or can containers only. **NO GLASS** Please exercise good judgment when consuming alcohol. PLEASE do NOT drink and drive!
Will I be searched at the gate?
In an effort to create and maintain a safe environment for everyone involved, all bags, coolers, backpacks, duffels, purses, etc. may be subject to a search prior to entering the event. We appreciate your understanding and willingness to help keep our event as safe as possible.
May I bring my wheelchair or other medically necessary motorized assisted device?
Yes. Wheelchairs and other medically necessary motorized assisted devices are certainly allowed but please keep in mind that our event is in a large field and the terrain may not be favorable.
What if I need assistance or have an emergency during the event?
We will have law enforcement onsite and located near the main (front) gate to assist you with emergencies. We also have hundreds of volunteers located throughout the entire event. Simply visit the law enforcement tent near the main (front) gate or flag down any volunteer for assistance.
How can I become a volunteer for the event?
Visit our ‘Contact Information’ tab on our website to learn who you should contact for further information. There is usually an email address and/or phone number listed for your convenience.
Click Here >> Contact Us
How much does it cost for Parking?
Parking is FREE to the general public. We will have parking assistants directing you to the designated parking areas. **Please pay close attention to your surroundings and parked location once you have parked so you can find your vehicle easily when you leave**
How can I find out more information about Longview since I am not from here or the surrounding areas?
We have listed hotels/motels and other general information here for your convenience.
Click Here >> Visitor Guide
I'm fascinated with the balloons and how they work. How can I find out more about them?
The good people at CaZoo Hot Air Balloon Team have put together a really good crew training package. While it's geared toward training new crew members, it has a very good glossary of balloon terms and parts and explains a lot of the workings of the balloon. Check it out here: http://cazooee.com/crewing/index.htm