A week of hot air balloon events will draw dozens of racers and enthusiasts to East Texas this week. The colorful balloons are being spotted over Longview today.
The events include the 36th Great Texas Balloon Race and, in its second year in Longview, the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship. According to the Longview News Journal, 76 pilots are set to compete in both races this week and that will mean an infusion of tourism dollars for East Texas cities.
Last year, the balloon races brought in more than $400,000 in sales tax revenue. Bill Bussey, the Longview dentist who started the Great Texas Balloon Race nearly four decades ago, told Red River Radio last year that he attributes the success of the races to attention to detail and innovation.
"Anything that can enhance that sport (balloon racing), I am for," Bussey said. "I think we do it by leading, by having a superior quality event."
Longview and Kilgore residents can expect to spot the balloons all week as they fly over the cities. A practice launch today was scheduled over East Texas Regional Airport. The events will run through Sunday.