Throughout the 39 years of producing this annual tradition within North Texas, the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. has never experienced such a devastating loss.  The Festival is not a large corporate entity, but rather a 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by 13 Board of Directors. The sadness, and significant economic loss, is shared with the 58 local non-profits, 75 vendors, dozens of sponsors, pilots, crew, and more than 5,000 volunteers who were committed to the event.


The Festival mission is to produce a family-oriented ballooning event to benefit the community. The objective is to also offer other non-profits an opportunity to assist with the operations of the Festival and raise funds. These agencies work the gates, parking lots, kids fun zone and the races. For their services these non-profits are compensated a portion of the revenue. However, this year they earned no money to apply towards their impactful programs within the community.



In 1998, a hot air balloon came to rest on a quiet street in Murphy, TX. Trevor Laswell was only seven years old and this captured his attention. He expressed his interest in wanting to get involved with ballooning to the pilot, who referred him to crew training at the Plano balloon festival. That same year, Laswell took his first ride in a balloon with Suzanne and Don Smith in their balloon Hours Stars. Laswell’s father, Steve Laswell, was the festival’s volunteer coordinator at the time helped get the young Laswell involved.


Laswell has been involved with the Plano Balloon Festival for 20 years, most recently serving on the balloon operations team, which ensures the safety of the pilots and spectators and assists with all the details of the actual balloons. He’s come a long way since he was seven. Continue reading “TWENTY-YEAR VOLUNTEER REMEMBERS THE BEST OF THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL”


InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival was named the Best Event/Festival in the Past Year in Plano by Plano Magazine for 2018. The magazine collected 97,697 votes to get the Best of Plano Magazine 2018 winners in several categories. Plano Magazine staff and contributors nominate events, business and services for the Best Of Awards, which are then voted on by people in the community. See the complete list of winners here. Voters also chose InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival as in the Best Event/Festival in Plano in 2017 after 239,570 votes were cast.


The airborne balloons and fireworks make InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival the most visible event in town, and one of the most exciting. But the hot air balloons aren’t the only draw. On September 21-23, 2018, festival weekend also includes the Kids Korner in the Central Market Kids Fun Zone, RE/MAX of Texas Parachute Team Exhibition, live entertainment on two stages, fireworks show, delicious festival food, and the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and 1K. Registration for all races is available online only. The festival opens at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 21. Find the full schedule of events here.



The Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. has partnered with the North Texas Food Bank and the City of Plano in the 5th Annual Plano Peanut Butter Drive and will accept donations at the 2018 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. The festival is September 21-23 at Oak Point Park in Plano and collection boxes will be on-site throughout the weekend.


“We invite our attendees to donate a plastic, 16 oz. jar of peanut butter to help us reach this year’s ambitious goal of collecting 50,000 pounds to help feed our hungry neighbors,” says Jo Via, Executive Director of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.


Food insecurity often goes unseen but affects 16% of the people in Collin County and one of every four children across North Texas. By raising awareness about this need and, more importantly, giving people in the community an opportunity to meet the need, the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival helps to make Plano better for everyone. Peanut butter collected in this drive will be distributed to hungry families in Collin County and the 13 counties served by the NTFB.



The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival began in 1980 in the City of Plano, and new for 2018 is a spacious location to set-up balloon operations headquarters.  More than 50 hot air balloon pilots and hundreds of crew members will be hosted by Celebration Event Center located at the Northwest corner of Custer Road and Park Blvd.


“The pilots and balloon crew members will be extremely excited and wowed by the amazing Celebration Event Center and Ballroom.  In the 39 years of Plano Balloon Festival pilot and crew functions, this facility is offering the very best place for their gatherings,” states Jo Via, Executive Director for the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.


The three-day festival weekend is September 21-23 and the majority of the 10,000 square ft facility, including the Large Ballroom, is to be used exclusively by pilots and crew. There are a few regularly scheduled classes that will continue in rooms located within the building such as Zumba, Martial Arts, and Bollywood Dance.



2016 Volunteer Crew Training held at Oak Point Park for #PlanoBalloon
2016 Volunteer Crew Training held at Oak Point Park for #PlanoBalloon

Hello, my name is Steve Laswell and I am the Volunteer Crew Coordinator for the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. I would like to share with you and your group of some volunteer opportunities for the Plano Balloon Festival. We are recruiting folks to help crew for a Hot Air Balloon Pilot for our Festival on September 22, 23, and 24, 2017.



Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. Celebrates 10 Years With InTouch Credit Union
Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. Celebrates 10 Years With InTouch Credit Union

In June 2017, Jo Via, Executive Director and Jessica Jackson, Event Director, together presented a commemorative photograph to the InTouch Credit Union to hang in their main office located at Democracy and Parkwood in Plano, Texas.  The canvas mounted photo was taken by Janelle Twyford-Silvis, owner of AlleeOops Photography and member of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. Board of Directors.

ITCU recently established themselves as the longest running Title Sponsor of the Plano Balloon Festival held in the City of Plano noted as the Official Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas.  The partnership began in 2006 and both ITCU and the Festival have similar philosophies regarding community involvement and providing opportunities for local non-profits to raise funds and create awareness about their organizations and programs.

“It is the Festival’s commitment to local non-profits that attracted ITCU to our organization.  The Festival’s partnership with over 55 local agencies is a fundamental component of the event and melds well with ITCU’s overall philosophy within their own organization,” explains Jo Via, Executive Director of Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere with InTouch Credit Union CEO, Kent Lugrand presenting check to My Possibilities at the 2013 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere with InTouch Credit Union CEO, Kent Lugrand presenting check to My Possibilities at the 2013 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival

ITCU has also donated more than $10,000 to 19 local non-profits including organizations such as My Possibilities, Meals on Wheels, Heritage Farmstead Museum, and Samaritan Inn.  “Their commitment to the community reaches beyond the Festival and the non-profits they honor at our event,” says Via.

InTouch Credit Union presents check to Meals on Wheels
InTouch Credit Union presents check to Meals on Wheels

Now celebrating more than 10 years, the current agreement generously secures the title rights through 2019. “We have the type of Title Sponsor Partnership that is the very best. They are exceptionally loyal and offer outstanding resources, to make the festival successful every year. We are truly blessed to have the InTouch Credit Union, and their entire team, as our remarkable Title Sponsor,” states Via.

InTouch Credit Union hot air balloon on the launch field.
InTouch Credit Union hot air balloon on the launch field.

In 2010, the ITCU truly exemplified the Festival mission by learning about ballooning so that a hot air balloon could represent their company on the field. Local pilot Scott Vesley will fly the vibrantly colorful ICTU hot air balloon again this year, as he did in 2016.

ITCU - Chip
ITCU – Chip

This year the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 22-24, 2017 at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas. ITCU graciously provides on-site Automated Teller Machines during the Festival weekend and a fun ITCU mascot “Chip” for kids to enjoy. They’ll also have a booth staffed by employees to answer questions about their services and offering fun games for giveaways during regular festival hours.  More information about ITCU may be found and Festival details are available at

Contact Jo Via for Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. media related questions: #PlanoBalloon #InTouchCreditU


“Moving Colors, A Phenomenal Funk You Up Show”
“Moving Colors, A Phenomenal Funk You Up Show”

By guest contributor: Christina Kennedy

Moving Colors is a native Dallas dance band known for having fun on stage. Members include Bill Brooks, Tim Harris, Landon Torbett, Joey Salvia, Trey Chamberlain, Chris Davis, Adrian Lea Jarvis, Rachel Pride, Alex Martin and Darren Fair. This highly adaptable band plays songs spanning generations, from oldies and classics to today’s top hits. They move seamlessly from your Jackson 5 favorites to today’s chart-topping musicians such as Beyoncé, Maroon 5 and Lady Gaga.

When it comes to performing again at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, Bill Brooks, lead guitarist and vocalist for Moving Colors said, “We’re excited, flattered and honored to be asked back. That’s a big deal for any band to perform in front of that many people and then to be asked back, it’s a huge compliment.”

Moving Colors has also played at venues such as the Arboretum, Six Flags, Lone Star Park and at top clubs in the area. They are more than just performing and want to leave their guests entertained, “It’s not about how the band sounds, it’s about the visual.”  Between creating unique artwork live on stage, to performing their inventive bucket percussion routines, similar to Stomp! but much cooler, Moving Colors, “try to be as entertaining as we can and not just show up there and play music.” The band wants to make sure, whether at a public festival or private event, you always leave having watched a phenomenal stage show, not just a concert.

With upbeat music meant to excite the audience and get everyone moving on the dance floor, expectations for Moving Colors at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival are set high with no doubt they will be blown away. They are a band suitable for all ages, generations and music fans and Moving Colors has three scheduled performances on Saturday, September 23, 2017 starting at 7:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. on the 98.7 KLUV Main Stage presented by Verizon.

The full #PlanoBalloon entertainment line-up is detailed:

Find out more about Moving Colors:




On this day, September 19th we wish a happy anniversary to Chris and Heather Ward who graciously shared their story in this letter:

Dear Plano Balloon Festival,

The Ward Family
The Ward Family

It was September 19th, 2008; and my boyfriend Chris and I were driving to this hot air balloon festival that I had never been to before.  He was a ham radio operator, so he had assisted in past years with the balloon recovery and retrieval chase crews.  We got stuck in traffic and his normally very calm personality was no where in site.  Chris was getting agitated like we were on some time schedule.  He told me he had arranged for a photographer to meet us there and take some “couple pictures” of us.  He said I should get my hair and nails done, and wear black and white because the balloons are so colorful.

So, we met Chris Vouras of Dallas Digital Events.  He explained that he had a videographer that was new and training for events of all kinds, so I would see him with a camera here and there.  My Chris’ best friend, his wife and their son was there taking in all the sites as well.

We got to our pictures.  Then my Chris up and disappeared!  We could not find him for what felt like an eternity.  I was just chatting with the photographer and Chris’ best friend and finally he appeared and said we were going on the balloon field.  I am an avid rule follower, so I did not like this plan.  I should add, I had just had surgery on my leg that month before and was able to walk some but was in a wheelchair the majority of the time.  So, he pushed me across the field to this beautiful balloon, which we now know is called the Chameleon II owned by David and Mary Ann Hawkins.

The photographer turned my chair and said he wanted to get some pictures of just me for a moment because the lighting was beautiful.  Balloons were inflating all around us, as they were preparing for the evening “Glow.”  All the sudden, my Chris appeared and asked me if I could stand for a moment because he had something he wanted to talk to me about.  He had a stuffed turtle in his hand, dressed in a tuxedo.  He started saying a lot of wonderful things, I was crying, and then he asked….”Would you be my wife?”

Chris Ward proposing to Heather on the launch field at the 2008 Plano Balloon Festival.
Chris Ward proposing to Heather on the launch
field at the 2008 Plano Balloon Festival.

He opened the ring box, I gasped and said YES!  Then he said the sneakiest part of all, “And you know what, all of this was caught on tape for us to have!”  Stinker!  He had arranged all of this, and I was blown away!  The balloons went up all around us, we took photos on the field as the balloon glow was happening and I just kept staring at my ring in awe.  Chris had it custom made for me to include sapphires, my birthstone, and the month he proposed.

We parted ways with the professional photographer and videographer, and took in the rest of the evening.  We bought shirts to help us always remember the 2008 Plano Balloon Festival (like we could forget), he bought a pin and we had junk food.  It was awesome.  I even saw a lightening bug for the first time that evening!

I created a photo book of our engagement story so we wouldn’t forget anything over the years and our video was given to us when we got our wedding video back.  Our engagement video is now on YouTube.

Flash forward now, 8 years later.  We got married on 07/08/09 and have been married for 7 years.  We have two beautiful children who are the lights of our world.  Our 4 year old daughter tells everyone she can that she can’t understand why her mommy and daddy did not invite her to their wedding.  LOL!  We have an almost 2 year old son, as well.

We plan to come back to the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival so our children can experience this magical place; and for the Hawkins’ of the Chameleon II to meet our kiddos.   Thank you for all the planning and preparations you all do to put the festival together every year.  You never know when your efforts will change someone’s life and that night in 2008, mine changed.

Fondly, Mrs. Heather Ward

Volunteer to Crew with Hot Air Balloon Pilots Sept 23-25

Balloon Chase Vehicle
Balloon Chase Vehicle

Pilots participating in the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival are in need of crew volunteers the weekend of September 23-25, 2016.  Each hot air balloon requires a minimum of three people and up to 15 depending on the size of the balloon.

No experience is necessary for this hands-on opportunity to assist with the unloading, set-up, inflation, launch, landings and deflations.  Volunteers who register quickly may attend the free crew training session being held with several balloons and pilots on Sunday September 18th at Oak Point Park. Volunteers working two shifts will also receive a 2016 Crew t-shirt featuring the “Dazzling Autumn Skies” logo.

Shifts typically range from 3 to 4 hours and balloon coordinators indicate all crew members should be able to push, shove or lift up to 50 lbs. Teenagers ages 15-17 can volunteer with a parent or guardian and community service hours may be earned for Eagle Scouts, Young Men’s Service League, and many other organizations.   All volunteers will meet at Collin Creek Mall and ride with the assigned pilot, and their hot air balloon, to and from the launch field.

Evening flight crews will be invited to enjoy a catered dinner and the Sunday flight includes brunch for all pilots and volunteers.  This year there will be random drawings on Friday and Saturday nights for $500 worth of gift cards to local restaurants and movie theaters.

The deadline to register as a balloon crew volunteer is September 18, 2016 and you may either email or sign-up online:

Timelapse video of Balloon Chase Crew by Chadwick Stelzl: