Perfect weather conditions enabled 22 balloons to take off in the U.S. Bank Great Balloon Rush Hour Race this morning. This is the thirteenth year for the drive-time race event, which was added to the Festival’s BalloonFest schedule in 2005. The competition got underway just after 7 AM at Bowman Field, as light wind took the balloons north west into West Louisville.
The 21 “Hound” balloons took off from Bowman Field in “chase” of the “Hare” – U.S. Bank balloon, piloted by Scott McClinton. McClinton flew for about an hour before landing in Shawnee Park near a construction zone. 6 of the pilots made a measurable toss of their bag of Kentucky bluegrass seed near the target, a giant vinyl U.S. Bank “X.”
With another race still on the docket for the weekend, the overall winner will be chosen based on a points system. As of this morning’s race, the Zaxby’s balloon, piloted by Nick Donner, is the front runner. Donner came within 19 feet, 10 inches of the target laid out by race sponsor and hare balloon U.S. Bank.
Pilots picked their positions for tonight’s U.S. Bank Great Balloon Glow at the BalloonFest Position Draw Luncheon held this afternoon. The Glow is scheduled for tonight at 9 p.m. at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Derby Festival Officials are monitoring the weather closely for the event. The final event on the U.S. Bank Great BalloonFest schedule is the U.S. Bank Great Balloon Race at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
Also at today’s luncheon, 15 pilots competed in an indoor target toss to choose a winning charity from Thursday’s U.S. Bank Great Balloon Charity Race (because the race was cancelled Thursday morning). Pilot Dan Hoehler with the Sunnyside of Louisville balloon by SoIN won the competition for the American Red Cross. American Red Cross will be presented a $1,000 check from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation.
Last night’s U.S. Bank Great Balloon Glimmer was a hit at the Waterfront! Conditions drew a crowd of thousands to the Great Lawn. 19 balloons participated in the annual ‘mini-glow’ at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville.
Since the first Great Balloon Race was held in 1973, the Derby Festival’s balloon events have been considered among the best in the country by pilots from all around the world. BalloonFest attractions are annually among the most popular family-friendly events on the Derby Festival schedule.
The Kentucky Derby Festival Great BalloonFest is sponsored by U.S. Bank with Contributing Sponsor V.G Reed & Sons. Q103.1 is the Media Sponsor of the Great Balloon Glimmer. 99.7 DJX is Media Sponsor of the Rush Hour Race and Great Balloon Race. 106.9 PLAY is Media Sponsor of the Great Balloon Glow. WLKY TV is the TV broadcast partner for the Glow.