Summer days are around the corner which means the Great Texas Balloon Race is as well!

According to an announcement by the Great Texas Balloon Race Chairwoman Michelle Ford, this year's annual hot air balloon festival will return after taking a 1 year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's festival will take place June 18-20.

While the event is not necessarily a real race, time is of the essence. The balloon pilots compete in navigational tasks. According to the GTBR site:

"There are targets on the ground that they try to 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. "

The Great Texas Balloon Race began in 1978 and is known as the longest hot air balloon event in Texas. Competitive pilots from across not only the nation, but the world attend the event that takes place annually in Longview, Texas.

The Great Texas Balloon Race earned Longview the official designation as "The Balloon Capital of Texas" by the Governor of Texas in 1985. Also, in 2013 Gregg County was proclaimed "The Balloon Race Capital of Texas" by the 83rd Texas Legislature.

This year more flight competitions have been added to compensate for the removal of other public attractions like the balloon glow and musical entertainment. More than 60 pilots are scheduled to compete. In addition, fun flights have been added Friday and Saturday afternoon to enhance the entertainment value for balloon watchers on the ground.

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