The Plano Balloon Festival 5K is ranked as one of the Top 5K’s in Texas by Texas Runner and Triathlete as seen featured in their Winter 2019 issue. Their list includes 34 races within the Lone Star State to receive recognition. If you’re wondering how many there are in Texas each year, then you might want to note that Running In The USA had 1,068 5K races on their calendar for 2018. Only five of those are in the City of Plano.
“This race is worthy of being one of the top five 5K’s in Texas for several reasons and from varying perspectives. For some participants it is all about the bling and our finisher medals are bright, colorful, big and feature a hot air balloon for each year of the race, so in 2019 we will have nine balloons on them. For others it is about the festival atmosphere, there is so much to do and experience at the race plus it is very family friendly. For everyone it is about seeing hot air balloons launch above you as you are running/walking the course. These are just some of the things you can’t get at any other 5K in Texas.” – Eric Lindberg, Chief Running Officer of On Your Left! Marketing & Events.
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.
Good news! The 10K race for 2018 is officially sold out with a maximum registration of 750 runners. Even better news is that the finish line for the 10K ends back at the festival. The course originally had a route that started at the festival, north on Jupiter Road, southeast on Los Rios Blvd, and then a zig zag of more than 10 streets, to finish at Bob Woodruff Park and wait to be shuttled back to the festival.
“We are fortunate to discover a new section of trail that allows the 10K finish at the festival with the half marathon runners. The benefit is the 10K participants finish directly at the festival and don’t have to ride shuttles. They’ll have immediate access to the food, entertainment, and a chance to see the folks who came to cheer when they cross the finish line,” says Eric Lindberg, Chief Running Officer with On Your Left! Marketing & Events.
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.
The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival has a launch field for the hot air balloons and the KLUV Main Stage for the entertainment! This year Downtown Fever, an Emerald City Band, will kick-off the opening of the gates on Friday, September 21, 2018 and take the stage at 4:15 p.m. The crowds will make their way to field and see the RE/MAX of Texas Parachute Team Exhibition jump out of an airplane at 5:30 p.m., and Downtown Fever will light up the stage again for two more sets at 7:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.
On Saturday, September 22, 2018 we’ve got Texas based Good Question Band in concert on the KLUV Main Stage presented by T-Mobile starting at 4:00 p.m. They have three more igniting sets on stage at 7:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. In between those sets we’re going to squeeze in the RE/MAX Parachute Team Exhibition, the Hot Air Balloon Glow, and a Spectacular Fireworks Show presented by Bimbo Bakeries USA at 9:00 p.m. The festival closes for the evening at 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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.
Guest contributor Ali Weiss, local freelance writer.
If you ever receive a balloonist’s card, keep it. Just like baseball or Pokemon cards, a balloonist’s card is an important symbol of who they’ve met over the years while traveling. Richard, owner of the Golden High Balloon, has countless cards from people he’s met around the world.
Richard began flying as a small plane pilot. Upon receiving his pilot’s license, he would fly to New York City with dates. He loved the freedom of flying, but being a pilot is also incredibly restrictive, from filing flight plans to no drinking.
In 1989, he was introduced to hot air balloons through Re/Max, where he worked in Augusta, Georgia. “The first flight is free, the next one is $30,000.”
He bought his first hot air balloon from Re/Max and now owns his third balloon. Golden High is a custom designed balloon, which means he went to the manufacturer to choose the size, the color each fabric panel color and design from the basket up to the parachute valve.
“I’ve flown over 900 hours, including Italy, Yugoslavia, and across the United States,” says the pilot.
Near to his Dallas home, Golden High participates in his favorite event, the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. A lover of small festivals as well as large, Richard enjoys the all weekend event as much as the rest of us. His first experience, when he moved here in 2010, also introduced him to his crew, who were volunteers. Now, he and his crew are close friends; they travel with him to many of his events.
On the day of the festival, Richard and his team will wake up while we’re still counting sheep and head out to the field to fuel up. Then lay out the balloon and inflate it with a fan before heating the air with the burner just in time for takeoff after sunrise.
Once they’re up in the air, the wind will take them until they can find a place to land. Landing is a bit of skill and a lot of luck since the balloon has no way to steer. Before they launch, they study the wind patterns and plot out several options for landing.
Even with all their planning, landing is a game of chance. They try to avoid landing on private property, so they aim for public land or parks, which aren’t always massive open areas designed for a large hot air balloon to land.
Once safely on the ground, they embrace the 200-year old tradition of the Balloonist’s Prayer, and of course, champagne. They’ll then refuel and return to the festival for the evening launch before regrouping for the hot air balloon glow at sunset.
Golden High, Richard, and his crew will be on the field among the many hot air balloons September 23-25, 2016 at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. Admission is only $5 and the full schedule of activities available on the website: www.planoballoonfest.org.