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 the 39 years of producing the beloved Plano Balloon Festival, we have steadfastly measured success on two fronts – the number of people we are able to wow with the beauty of hot air balloons, and the dollars raised by the non-profits who rely on the success of the festival to meet their annual fundraising goals. Sadly, mother nature took it upon herself to intervene, and 2018 will not go down as a banner year on either front.
A three-day outdoor festival in Texas is a wildly ambitious endeavor, but we are not deterred. Our mission is to provide nonprofit agencies an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for their programs and services, which ultimately enhances the quality of life for all North Texans. The Festival has circulated more than 3 million dollars back into the Collin County and Plano community. Supporters and friends of the Festival, people like you, choose to give through corporate sponsorship, ticket purchase or race participation so we can hold true to our mission year-after-year.
The RE/MAX of Texas Parachute Team is scheduled for daily exhibitions that involve jumping out of an airplane, gliding down to the field, and landing in front of thousands of cheering fans. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. you’ll want to make your way to the field for this adventurous experience at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival being held September 21-23, 2018 at Oak Point Park.
This attraction is included with admission into the three-day weekend that also includes a fireworks show, two nights of concerts on the KLUV Main Stage and more than 50 hot air balloons! The full schedule detailing all the activities may be found here on the website. The gates open at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 21, kids 36″ and under receive free entry and general Tickets are $10 per person or $20 for the weekend pass.
Watch this beautiful video of the RE/MAX of Texas Parachute Team posted on our YouTube channel! #PlanoBalloon
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.
Camp Gladiator has partnered with the Plano Balloon Festival Races to help runners when they pick-up race packets on September 15 and 16 at Academy Sports and Outdoors at 4045 N. Central Expressway in Plano. Runners who are already registered for the Plano Balloon Festival Races can pick-up race packets from Camp Gladiator representatives between 11:00 am and 6:00 pm.
There is no race day registration or packet pick-up. Additional packet dates are as follows:
Thursday, Sept 20 – 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Friday, Sept 21 – 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Saturday, Sept 22 – 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Plano Event Center, Spring Glade Room, 2000 E. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, TX 75074
Camp Gladiators will work alongside the Plano Balloon Festival Races to promote health, fitness and being outdoors. Camp Gladiator is a four-week outdoor group fitness program. Each workout or “Camp” is a 60 minute, full-body workout incorporating both cardio and strength training. The mission of Camp Gladiator is to positively impact the physical fitness and ultimately the lives of as many people as possible.
“Exercising outside has so many benefits to exercising inside. When you’re outside, your body is having to work with so many external elements – temperature, wind, dynamic surfaces, etc.,”says Camp Gladiator partner trainer Becky Leverett. “When you challenge your body with an unstable environment, your muscles and brain are constantly having to react and re-adjust which makes it hard for the body and brain to ever become complacent and bored.”
Runners and walkers of every fitness level will have the opportunity to connect with nature, get some fresh air, and see the soaring balloons festival weekend. The 1K fun run and 5k are on Saturday, September 22 and the 10k and Half Marathon run on Sunday, September 23. Registration is online only. Camp Gladiator trainers are prepared to lead the pre-run warm-ups both days, and be on site all weekend at the festival to connect with the Plano community and encourage active lifestyles.
“Our bodies are capable of so much more than we give it credit for,” says Leverett. “I challenge every person to step outside of their comfort zone and run that race or attend a camp.”
Camp Gladiator is the largest adult outdoor fitness program in the Nation and DFW Metroplex. Those ready for more outdoor fitness opportunities can find more than 50 Plano-area Camp Gladiator programs at CampGladiator.com for all local camps or connect with Leverett via email email@example.com with any questions.
General registration for the Plano Balloon Festival Races ends August 31 and online registration for the Challenges closes at Noon on Friday, September 21 and the Half Marathon and 10K race registration closes at Noon on Saturday, September 22. The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival is a three day weekend starting September 21 and continuing until Sunday, September 23, 2018 at Oak Point Park in Plano, TX. Advance tickets are available online at www.planoballoonfest.org or at participating InTouch Credit Union locations starting September 1. #PBFRaces #PlanoBalloon
Have you ever wanted to learn more about hot air balloons? We are recruiting folks to help crew for pilots for the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival the weekend of September 21-23, 2018. Volunteers will learn to help with setting up, inflating, launching, and packing up the hot air balloons after a flight during regularly scheduled balloon activities at the festival. There are two flights a day and the morning crew meets at 6:00 a.m. and finishes around 10:00 a.m. The evening crew begins at 4:00 p.m. and finish by 8:00 p.m. Breakfast is provided for the morning shift and dinner is provided after the evening shift.
Hands-on training is scheduled for 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 15 at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas. In the event of rain, the training session will take place on the following day, September 16 at the same location.
Frisco resident Wim Schalken has an impressive collection of more than 50 finisher medals for marathons, half marathons 10k, 5k, and hiking. This dedicated runner also spent years working for a non-profit to organize running events to raise money for charities. In 2016, Schalken hiked the John Muir Trail that included 211 miles and a 47,000 ft. elevation gain within the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The journey included 20 days of hiking.
“I was blown away by the beauty of this pristine wilderness. Because of the impact this experience had on me, I was looking for a unique keepsake to commemorate the accomplishment. You can buy a lousy shirt but instead I wanted a medal.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.itcu.org and Festival details are available at www.planoballoonfest.org.
Contact Jo Via for Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. media related questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. #PlanoBalloon #InTouchCreditU
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,
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?”
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.
Guest contributor: Mike Kohl, Race Coordinator and Board of Directors, Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
The Plano Balloon Festival Races (PBF Races) include a 1k, 5k, Half Marathon, and Relay that match a runner’s love of a challenging course and family friendly environment, complete with hot air balloons. We are proud of the races this event offers for runners and it shows in the participation numbers. Over the past six years, the race has grown from less than 1,000 entrants in 2010 to over 4,000 runners in 2015. The PBF Races now represent one of the largest in North Texas and we estimate 1,750 half marathon runners this year.
With the coordinated efforts by the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. and DFW Runs, Eric Lindberg, the team provides the experience, knowledge and passion to continue with a well-organized and competently executed Race Series. The success of PBF Races can be attributed to the total focus and value offered to runners and family members. This is reflected in the custom finisher medals, race shirts, capes for kids, catered food, tickets to the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, age bracket awards, water stations, volunteers, and the immense attention to detail provided by race coordinators.
The race course was changed in 2014 for three reasons: 1) Finish closer to the start to make it a true loop course, 2) Maintain close proximity to Runner’s Village, and 3) Better running experience. The Half Marathon Relay was added in 2016 as a direct result of the survey of runners from last year. PBF Races truly values the input and feedback from runners and this is one result of many in our collaborative efforts.
PBF Races attracts many first time half marathon runners within the metroplex and we are honored to have them at our starting line and proud to cheer them across the finish line. For those training we suggest that you join a running group from Run On!, Cooper Fitness, Frisco Running Club or any place that has others also training for PBF Races. Stick with the program and if you can’t do a short race during the week, make sure you extend to longer runs on the weekend. Don’t over-train. It’s just as easy to over-train as under-train and this causes injuries. Listen to your body and if you do become injured, avoid pushing yourself further until fully healed. Hydration is key because the Texas heat requires replenishing your body with a lot of fluids.
Incidents during the PBF Races are minimal because this is our #1 goal. Annual briefings are held to discuss the safety of the runners during the event and have an established evacuation plan in case of inclement weather. Plano Fire and Plano Police Department are onsite during the race to provide immediate assistance.
Prior participants have come from Ireland (a race team came over specifically for the event), Canada, Mexico and every contiguous state. PBF Races has become a part of people’s stories shown in race selfies, marriage proposals at the finish line, cancer survivors, Olympic Qualifiers, company sponsored teams, super heroes, tu-tus, and even a hot dog once ran in our race – truly a festival atmosphere. Lastly, we have award winning Finisher’s medals, which are given to all racers who complete the course. This year, the half marathon medal will be no exception – large, colorful and the center spins around making it a dazzling piece of bling.
Registration for PBF Races is available www.pbfraces.org and you can follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pbfraces/ for updates and conversations with other runners. Saturday, September 24, 2016 the 5K run will start at 7:30 a.m. and the 1K fun run will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the awards ceremony scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday, September 25, 2016 the Half Marathon and Relay will begin at 7:00 a.m. and the awards ceremony scheduled for 9:30 a.m. More information about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival “Dazzling Autumn Skies” being held September 23-25, 2016 at Oak Point Park, may be found at www.planoballoonfest.org.