Wishing you a happy & safe 4th of July!

Plano Balloon Festival
Plano Balloon Festival
Let your Fall season running journey start at the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, Sky High Challenge, 5K and 1K the weekend of September 23-24, 2017 at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas. #PBFRaces
Get started on your running adventure!
4th of July holiday offer – *$5.00 Off Adults. 
*Offer is good 7/3 – 7/5 at 11:59PM.


#GlobalRunningDay Discount
#GlobalRunningDay Discount
This month we celebrate Global Running Day by offering 10% off runner registration throughout June. The discount code PBFGlobal expires on July 1st and may be applied to the Half Marathon, Relay, Sky High Challenge, 5K and 1K distances.
Did you know that all runners are also automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win a private ride in a hot air balloon? More information is available online: www.pbfraces.org and if you’re curious about the routes be sure to check out the maps of each course. #PBFRaces


Donny Ray
Donny Ray

“Get Me Over The Finish Line” is a race recap by guest contributor: Donny Ray

The 2016 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon was my second time to run this race and the 5k.  It was actually my very first 5k in 2013 and my very first half marathon in 2014.  As always, it’s a well-organized event with great swag and with a fun course with the highlight to be able to see the balloons fly overhead (weather permitting).  The race is in mid-September, which gives a slight break on the Texas heat, but can warm up towards the end of the race.

Here is a recap of my 2016 half marathon experience.  I trained last summer for the Chicago Marathon and this race was the perfect distance and race to do prior to Chicago so I could taper before that race.  I arrived to the event early to be well prepared and not rushed.  As always, there is plenty of parking and volunteers to get you where you need to go.  There are many port-a-potties in the area and lots of room in the start line area.

Prior to the start, the balloons are being lit up on the field and it is definitely something different that a lot of races do not offer.  It was very windy that day, so no launch was made due to safety reasons.  The start began without any issues and lots of excitement in the air.


The first few miles were through the countryside and well condensed with runners.  There was always elbow room even at the start of the race.  There are some rolling hills for the first several miles, but none that are crazy.  This is a good race for the beginner or the expert.  I saw several friends throughout the first few miles, which is always a nice sight to see.  The course has multiple water stations, hydration stops, and support for the participants from start to finish.

About half way the half marathon course becomes smaller, but runners have spread out by then and well on their set pace.  I was able to keep a comfortable pace without any crowding throughout the entire race.  I see the relay participants handing off for the 2nd half at mile 13.1 just when I’m setting into my pace.  Around this time I start seeing clouds in the sky and just hope that they keep us dry in time to finish.  Around mile 8, it starts to drop rain very slightly.  It wasn’t bad at all and actually felt nice.  Again, I was wishing the weather would stay good for us.  At mile 10 it starts raining harder and I realize that it isn’t going to let up.  Immediately after 11 miles it starts to downpour and gets interesting.  No one can control mother nature.

Donny Ray running the 2016 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon
Donny Ray running the 2016 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon

At one point I had a mental thought that I was in the “hunger games.”  It was a thought that I needed to get me over the finish line.  I remember turning left on the final stretch and the rain was pouring so hard and water was up to my ankles.  I’ll never forget that feeling at the finish line and the sense of accomplishment that came from finishing.  There was a volunteer out in the pouring rain making sure everyone that crossed received their well-deserved medal.  I see in the distance a group of my friends under a tent yelling my name.  It was an awesome feeling.

2016 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon & 5K Finisher Medals
2016 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon & 5K Finisher Medals

The 5k participants received a t-shirt and half marathon participants received a tank.  Both are great quality and I wear them around constantly.  The medals are awesome.  Each year, they add an additional balloon to the medal to commemorate their anniversary.  The finisher medals have never disappointed.

Personally, the real race of a half marathon begins anywhere from mile 8 to 10 all the way to the finish.  This is when you have to really dig deep and what makes running so fun.  This race did have a lot of rain, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t change it if I could.  That’s what makes running great.  Snow, rain or sunshine!

Donny Ray running the 2016 Plano Balloon Festival 5K
Donny Ray running the 2016 Plano Balloon Festival 5K

The Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon and 5K are two fantastic races. I’m happy to give my personal review and help spread the word. www.pbfraces.org #PBFRaces #PlanoBalloon


Mother's Day Discounts
Mother’s Day Discounts
This month we celebrate Mom with a special gift of 14% off runner registration fees for the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, Relay, Sky-High Challenge, 5k and 1k.  Simply use the discount code RUNNINGMOMS between May 8-15, 2017 to receive instant savings off the general registration fee.
Saturday, September 23, 2017 is the 5k and 1k starting at 7:30 a.m. and Sunday, September 24, 2017 is the Half Marathon and Relay beginning at 7:00 a.m.
$ 85.00 – General Registration -> $73.10

$130.00 – General Registration -> $111.80
Interested in running both days? Register for both race distances – Half Marathon and 5K. Includes a Bonus Medal!
$115.00 – General Registration -> $98.90
Adults, 14 and over
 $35.00 – General Registration -> $30.10
Youth, 13 and under
$20.00 – Registration -> $17.20
Adults, 14 and over
$35.00 – General Registration -> $30.10
Youth, 13 and under
$20.00 – Registration -> $17.20



Adobe PDF
Plano Balloon 2016 logo
Plano Balloon 2016 logo
Race times and additional details are listed on the website www.PBFRaces.org and be sure to check out photo albums and up-to-date event info on the Plano Balloon Festival Races Facebook page!  #PBFRaces #PlanoBalloon


Limelight band pic
Official Limelight band picture

Guest contributor: Christina Kennedy

Limelight is ready to entertain the audience with their high-energy approach and eclectic style at the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival on the KLUVMain Stage presented by Direct Energy.  Established in 2009, Limelight took the 25-year experience and reputation of Emerald City Band and created a new ensemble with its very own unique style and personality.

Easily making music and dancing their top priority for all their audience members, Limelight is guaranteed to make any event unforgettable. While being the life of the party and bringing the crowd to their feet, Limelight is exceptionally eager to officially make their #PlanoBalloon debut.

“This festival is well known across the country and we feel honored to be part of such a great tradition. We live in Plano and always look forward to that special weekend when the sky is filled with huge, colored balloons. We have a deep connection with the community, starting over 25 years ago, we’ve had the privilege to call Plano and the surrounding cities our home.” – Limelight

Direct Energy banner
Limelight in Concert on the KLUV Main Stage presented by Direct Energy on September 22, 2017 at these performance times:

4:00 – 5:30 PM
7:00 – 8:00 PM
8:45 – 10:00 PM

Limelight is a festivity all their own. Comprised of a professional 11-piece band, their musical expertise spans decades. From classical to current hits and all your party staples, they want to make sure to give everyone something to sing about. Limelight does everything they can to take their shows to the next level so the audience is sharing their spot in the limelight.

Limelight logo
Limelight logo

Check out www.limelightband.com for more info about upcoming shows and follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 22-24, 2017 at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas.  www.planoballoonfest.org #PlanoBalloon


Bimbo® bear special shape hot air balloon.
Bimbo® bear special shape hot air balloon.

The Petrehn family name has been, for many decades, connected with ballooning and John Petrehn recalls, “My first flight in a hot air balloon was when I was just a couple of years old and could not event see over the side of the basket. My father was the pilot.”

John became an FAA licensed balloon pilot at the age of only 16 and is currently the #4 ranked pilot in the world.  “Ballooning is my full time job, profession, career, hobby, and obsession,” explains the owner of Magniflight hot air balloon company based in Houston.

Among his more than 50 awards, John won the 2006 World Hot Air Balloon Championship held in Tochigi, Japan and again in 2010.  The 19th FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship took place in Debrecen, Hungary and John was among top competitors from five continents and 33 countries.

Although John and his highly experienced chase crew typically log 100 flights a year, this will be their first time launching Bimbo® bear here in Plano, the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas.  “It is a magical feeling when you lift off, especially in the beautiful Bimbo® bear balloon. The crowd loves the special shape and always send us off with a loud cheer,” states the pilot.

Bimbo® bear is a brand new special shape hot air balloon, representing the Bimbo Bakeries USA company and Bimbo® brand sweet baked goods, which

Pilot John Petrehn
Pilot John Petrehn

is headquartered in Horsham, Pennsylvania.  Standing 105 feet tall, the Bimbo® bear is 78 feet wide and weighs nearly 600 pounds.

This iconic white bear made its debut in July at the 34th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and will be a magical site to see September 23-25 at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. www.planoballoonfest.org

Just look at the cute Bimbo® Bear’s face and say “Beembo.”™ It’s been pronounced this way in countries all over the world for over 65 years. – Bimbo Bakeries USA

Bimbo Bear and Golden High hot air balloons at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival Photo credit: The League Lady
Bimbo Bear and Golden High hot air balloons at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival | Photo credit: The League Lady

More information about the Bimbo brand is available at www.bimbousa.com.   View more photos of Bimbo Bear hot air balloon at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival on our Facebook page.


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


Stephanie Johnson Hair Face Photo
Stephanie Johnson
Hair Face Photo

By guest contributor Stephanie Johnson

Dallas-based visual artist and photographer Stephanie Johnson offers these professional tips for taking photographs of hot air balloons at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival:

  • Community events gather large crowds, so go in with a game plan. Know where you’ll park and where you’ll predominantly want to be. Be sure to plan what you’ll bring versus what you will not want to weigh you down.
  • Plan your gear choices being sure to limit your lenses to less than a few multifocal lenses versus too many prime ones. The ability to follow along a balloon will be helpful when things start moving quickly. Also, be sure to pack a tripod or monopod. The most photographed times of morning or sundown ­ when the balloonsare wanting to be “glowing” ­ the tripod or monopod can help greatly with camera stabilization in low lightatmospheres.
  • Walkable, comfortable clothing and shoes will be something you thank yourself for doing.
  • Not only does this help with being able to catch set up, it allows you the opportunity to scope the balloons that will be around.
  • Focus on a few in a close area to watch through take off so you don’t miss any of the potential photographs that come from that time. You don’t want to be caught up in a crowd when you could be capturing a greatmoment.
  • If you can only manage to have one lens with you on your camera then go as wide as you can. A kit lens (one that comes with your camera) is often an 18­55 and that gives you a good, standard range to play with. Honestly, the less to carry in your bag, the less you have to deal with and the less chance you have of missing a good moment because of lens change.
  • Remember that these balloons are much larger than many people realize (until they see them up close) soyou would hate to get there and have equipment that keeps you from capturing the whole of themagnificence.
  • Whether you want the glow to go through the balloon from behind, or to reflect onto it directly, you’ll have tobe aware of the big bulb in the sky. Photography is an active and anticipatory process so being aware of where things are headed can help you grab a great photo at the right time.
  • There will be many levels of light from morning to night so you will have to be able to anticipate and adjust your settings accordingly.
  • Because of the large amount of people and equipment at an event of this magnitude, it is important to not gettoo caught up in it all. It can be really easy to be so into the act of photographing that you fail to notice ropes, cords, holes in the ground, etc.
  • Wear sunscreen and be sure to stay hydrated. Even on a cooler day, a lot of time outdoors with the sun and crowds can be quite harsh on the body. Be sure to take care of you.

Find out more about Stephanie Johnson, an award-winning photojournalist, by visiting www.SJohnsonArt.com. The 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 23-25 at Oak Point Park and tickets are available www.planoballoonfest.org.

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 VolCrew@planoballoonfest.org or sign-up online: http://www.planoballoonfest.org/p/getinvolved/volunteers/registration

Timelapse video of Balloon Chase Crew by Chadwick Stelzl:


Jason Myers, pilot and owner of The Dolphin Balloon Photo credit: The League Lady
Jason Myers, pilot and owner of The Dolphin Balloon
Photo credit: The League Lady

The Dolphin balloon owner Jason Myers is participating as a pilot for only the second time at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.  Jason has volunteered as a crew member for other pilots for more than 10 years and currently resides in McKinney, Texas.  Last year Jason won 4th place in the Plano Balloon fly-in competition and was one of 40 balloons to set a World Record at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium for the “Most Hot Air Balloons Inflated Indoors.”

“My first flight in a hot air balloon was September 12, 1981 when my Aunt Gayle flew my Dad and I from Silver Springs Park in Stow to Brimfield in Ohio.  It got me hooked with a love for aviation and sport of ballooning,” recalls Jason Myers.  “In the pilot logbook under ‘Nature of Flight’ my Aunt Gayle simply wrote, ‘Fun.’ I recorded ‘coolest thing ever done’ in my mental logbook.”

The Dolphin Jason Myers
The Dolphin

According to Jason, The Dolphin is a “she” balloon because female dolphins are lighter than males, and in ballooning, the lighter the better.  Manufactured by Avian, The Dolphin is 60,000 cubic feet and a Falcon II.  The two dolphins swimming around were hand sewn onto the balloon in the basement of a church by friends and family.  There are more than 400 round “water bubbles” that his Aunt Gayle meticulously positioned and the light blue, green, yellow, and dark blue colors represent the ocean, land, sun and sky.

“I started flying and taking lessons when I was 16 years old.  I flew as a student pilot for many years and finally completed my Private Pilot’s license for Lighter than Air (LTA) classification in 2013.”

The Dolphin Balloon Basket
The Dolphin Balloon Basket

Jason adheres to a strict 3-Strike Rule explaining that if that many things go wrong before a flight then it’s best to stop the negative pattern before getting in the air and not fly at all.

On the flip side, hot air balloon newbies, upon completion of their first flight, receive the traditional glass of champagne (or sparkling cider) and Balloonist’s Prayer recited as the toast.  Concealed in The Dolphin basket, Jason always carries a sentimental memento of his Aunt Gayle, who lost a battle to cancer in 2001.

“I get a rush of excitement every time I lift off. The feeling of leaving the ground and becoming airborne is a rush that continues with every flight.”

Sharing a love of ballooning with the community is what Jason believes is the best part about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. He enjoys answering questions about the balloon and the look in the eyes of children when they come up to the basket, watch the glow of the burners, and feel the heat.

“There’s something magical about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival because of the excitement and energy that it brings to people as they watch the balloons inflate, stand up, and lift-off into the sky,” explains Jason Myers.

Jason regularly drives The Dolphin to nearby fields within Collin County and logged approximately 30 flights in 2015.  He also owns and flies a larger Cameron balloon, that is 105,000 cubic feet, the “A.M. Sunrise” named for his daughter Abigayle Marie.  Outside of ballooning Jason is a Product Specialty Manager at Great Southern Wood that manufactures treated lumber and distributes construction material.

This summer The Dolphin inflated at Oak Point Park and below is a live video in real-time of Jason Myers and his balloon.  Make plans to see The Dolphin swimming on the field September 23-25, 2016 at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival www.planoballoonfest.org.