The 2018 US Hot Air Balloon Championships is taking place from Tuesday, July 10 until Sunday, July 15 this year. A total of around 50 pilots will compete in the event held in Shreveport–Bossier City, Louisiana. A grand total of $35,000 will be given out in addition to other prizes. The winning pilot will win not only the U.S. National Championship, but, more importantly, have the opportunity to represent the United States in the World Competition.
The Red River Balloon Rally coincides with the 2018 Hot Air Balloon Championships on Friday, July 13 and Saturday, July 14 at LSUS campus, which is located in the southeast portion of Shreveport. The two events have been run together for the last three years.
Each morning the pilots will launch bright and early at 6:30 a.m. During the competing stage, the pilots will swoop low to the ground and attempt to hit specific targets.
Similar to all balloon rides, the competition will commence if the weather permits.
According to Shreveport Times, Kelly Wells, the executive director of the Shreveport–Bossier City Sports Commission, helped set up the event. Talking about pilot strategy, Wells said, “Not all of them will launch from the same site. They’ll pick the spot that gives them the best advantage.”
Wells said that the competitors contest for awards of $2,500 on Saturday and Sunday morning, and for the grand prize of $20,000 on Sunday.
The cost to buy tickets for the 2018 Hot Air Balloon Championships in advance is $10—this is for children six and over. Tickets are also available the days of the championship for $12 (if you have served in the military the price is only $10). VIP passes for either of the two nights of the event are selling for the price of $75, which includes your own private seat, meeting the bands, and being in a tent with air-conditioning.
After this year’s event, the 2018 Hot Air Balloon Championships will move to Nebraska for the next three years.
The chancellor of LSUS, Larry Clark, has taken part in hosting the balloon rally for the past three years. “There’s no one who doesn’t love the sight of a balloon flying overhead,” Clark said. “The pilots are the people who make this happen and that just happens to be our mascot. We’re working to make this the best one ever.”
Two balloon glows will be held at the Red River Balloon Rally; one each evening from 8:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. Famous balloons will be a part of the glow this year as well: Darth Vader and Master Yoda will make an appearance. Three other balloons accompanying from these two force-users will be Tall Steve the Penguin, Yellow Bird, and Rocket the Flying Squirrel.
Aside from just the balloon glow, the balloon rally will have a kid’s zone, fireworks, tethered balloon rides, and live music—the bands are Alive, Crowder, Robert Mizzell and the Southern Roots, Odyssey Road (a Journey tribute band), and The Molly Ringwalds—both days. Check out the full schedule.
While the two events merge together, the Balloon Federation of America points out, “All competitive flights Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will NOT necessarily be seen at the LSUS Festival Site but will take place over the cities of Shreveport and
Bossier City and parts of Bossier and Caddo parishes.”
It is also important to note the 2018 U.S. Women’s Hot Air Balloon Championship will take place later the same month, running from July 18-22. The competition will take place in Waterford, Wisconsin.