By guest contributor:  Iain McCorquodale

#PBFRaces Starting Line - Iain and Alisa McCorquodale
#PBFRaces Starting Line –
Iain and Alisa McCorquodale

My wife and I lost a close friend to a brain tumor in July of this year, and committed to run one half marathon a month over the next 12 months to raise funds for Marie Curie, a UK charity that provides care and support for people living with any terminal illness. More details can be found at  We are also substituting one of the half marathons for the 2018 London Marathon, the biggest in the world. So far, with the help of friends and business associates, Alisa and I have raised around £5554.50 for the charity, but with 10 more runs to go we are hopeful to raise more. Continue reading “TEAM MARIE CURIE FINISH THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL HALF MARATHON”


Tethered rides at InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival (photo credit: David Downs Photography)
Tethered rides at InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival (photo credit: David Downs Photography)

Live life in color and take a tethered ride in a hot air balloon at the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival that will be the weekend of September 22-24 at Oak Point Park. A tethered ride is when the hot air balloon lifts up and off the ground, it then hovers 20-30 feet above the field for several minutes, but the balloon won’t launch or fly away into the sky. This is a unique opportunity to experience the sensation of being in a hot air balloon with a licensed pilot. Continue reading “HOT AIR BALLOON TETHERED RIDES AT INTOUCH CREDIT UNION PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL”

RaceJoy Mobile App Includes Live Tracking & Alerts During Plano Balloon Festival Races

Free Live Tracking and Progress Alerts on Race Day

Main page of RaceJoy app
Main page of RaceJoy app

The Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, Relay, 5K and 1K is sponsoring RaceJoy to provide participants and spectators these features for free (normally a 99 cents upgrade fee for both the participant and spectator). September 23-24, 2017 the PBF Races will be held at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas the weekend of the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. General registration ends 9/16 and all race courses and run information is detailed on the website: #PBFRaces

Download the RaceJoy mobile app for live phone tracking at the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, Relay, 5K and 1K. The RaceJoy app is available on Apple and Android devices. All participating runners must turn disable WiFi settings on race day or the tracking will disengage.

Continue reading “RaceJoy Mobile App Includes Live Tracking & Alerts During Plano Balloon Festival Races”


InTouch Credit Union Balloon
InTouch Credit Union Balloon

It’s August and the temperature is rising above triple digits here in the Lone Star State.  In the “Land of Enhatchment” the heat is cranked up even more in celebration of 22 years as the “hatchiest place on Earth” at Central Market.  Last Thursday local pilot Scott Vesely inflated and tethered the InTouch Credit Union hot air balloon in the parking lot at the Central Market location at 320 Coit Road in Plano.



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. #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 and be sure to check out photo albums and up-to-date event info on the Plano Balloon Festival Races Facebook page!  #PBFRaces #PlanoBalloon


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:

Plano Balloon Earns Texas Festivals Awards of Excellence

Plano Balloon Festival Inc. brought home seven dazzling awards of excellence from the Texas Festival & Events Association (TFEA) annual conference and marketing competition. These five awards were presented to Jo Via and Jessica Jackson on behalf of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. for the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival in the category of events with a budget over $750k:

Jo Via and Jessica Jackson TFEA Awards Plano Balloon Festival Inc
Jo Via and Jessica Jackson at TFEA Accepting Awards of Excellence on behalf of Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
  1.  Gold 1st Place Best Social Media
  2. Gold 1st Place Best Organization Website
  3. Gold 1st Place Best Promotional Brochure
  4. Silver 2nd Place Best Event Website
  5. Bronze 3rd Place Best Promotional Poster




TFEA Award of Excellence for Best Organization Website, Best Social Media, and Best Promotional Brochure presented to Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
TFEA Award of Excellence for Best Organization Website, Best Social Media, and Best Promotional Brochure presented to Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

Additionally, two awards were received for the Plano Balloon Festival Run Series, Half Marathon, 5K and 1K Fun Run in the category of events with a budget between $75k – $250k:

  1. Silver 2nd Place Best Miscellaneous Clothing – Youth Runner Capes
  2. Silver 2nd Place Best Other Merchandise – Finisher Medals

“Recognition, by those we consider peers in the Event Industry, is always a positive endorsement of our marketing efforts.  Credit is given to two individuals that are committed to producing at the highest level, Dan Stables, Stables Creative Group, and Cece Liekar-Campanini, The League Lady.  These two companies play a critical role in the marketing success of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.” – Jo Via, Executive Director, Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

The TFEA Kaliff Marketing Awards recognize excellence in marketing campaigns that promote events and festivals across the State of Texas.  “The competition recognizes the creativity and professionalism of the TFEA industry. A record number of 488 entries were received in this year’s competition and Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. stands out among their peers every year.  TFEA congratulates Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. and all the award winners across the state,” comments Kay Wolf on behalf of the Texas Festivals & Events association.  TFEA is an official affiliate of the International Festivals & Events Association, the premier professional association supporting festival and event leaders worldwide.

September 23-25, 2016 the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held at Oak Point Park showcasing this year’s theme: “Dazzling Autumn Skies.”   A full schedule of the festival activities, performances, and launch times may be found at and volunteers may sign-up for a shift using the online form: Runner registration for all races is available at

Connect with Plano Balloon:
Facebook:  Plano Balloon Festival
Facebook:  PBF Races
Twitter:  @planoballoon
Instagram:  #planoballoon
Pinterest:  PlanoBalloon
YouTube:  Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

About Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
The Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. is a non-profit 501c3 organized in 1987 for the purpose of staging a premier community-based and family-oriented hot air balloon event, offering other local non-profits volunteer opportunities within the Festival operations.  The Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. makes a direct impact on the Collin County community by dispersing funds to participating non-profit agencies and has donated more than $2.5 million since inception.

View the full list of  2016 TFEA Marketing & Communication Award Winners in pdf format.

Safety First, Adventure Second

Guest contributor: Susan Zacheis

“Safety first” has always been my motto as an overprotective mother of two. In addition to being a neurotic mother, I am also afraid of heights, so the thought of being miles above the ground in a hot air balloon was a little terrifying. However, my sense of adventure prevailed through the research for this blog.

I got up bright and early on a recent Saturday morning to be part of a volunteer crew training session with some of the pilots and their balloons. It was a beautiful sunrise at Oak Point Park with not a bit of wind, or so I thought. Keith Berry, pilot of “Highly Cool”, said they wouldn’t be able to hold the balloon competition because of the windy conditions. I was quite surprised and notably the first clue that these guys might just follow my “Safety First” motto. Continue reading “Safety First, Adventure Second”