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Great Texas Balloon Race
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.
What about the Balloon Glows, why are they sometimes cancelled?
First, please know that we want 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.
Can I buy 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.
Can I buy a ticket for just the concerts or for just 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.
Do I need to buy a ticket for my child?
Children 12 years and under are admitted free.
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.
I really want to watch the balloons launch. How can I do this?
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:
o   Be prepared for frequent and quick stops
o   Chances are there will be some U-turns and changing of minds
o   They may pull over to the side of the road and release a helium balloon and watch it float away
o   Please obey all traffic laws and keep road safety in mind
o   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 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 Ring Toss pole.  There will be a 30’ pole erected in the infield. The pilots will attempt to swoop in close enough to toss a ring over the top of the pole.  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.  If you come out Saturday morning to watch the flight, you will need a ticket to the Saturday event.  You will receive a wristband that morning that will allow you back in to the festival on Saturday night for all other festival events.  The Sunday morning race is free to come and watch.
And now a few words about the target zones.  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.
Can I bring my pet?
Pets are not allowed. Service animals only will be allowed in the gate. 

Can I bring my owner cooler to the festival?
Yes, you may bring your cooler. Please, no glass containers.
Can I bring my drone?
No. Drones are not permitted by the FAA on or around airport facilities.

What kind of seating can I expect?
Bring your own folding chairs and/or blankets. Our festival takes place in a field at the airport so there is no permenant seating. 
Is smoking permitted? 
No. Smoking is prohibited due to the possibilty 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.  

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. 

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