Monday, September 26, 2011


   The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot air ballooning event in the Nation. During three days in early September, you can look up into the Reno skies and see a rainbow of hot air balloons soaring about. From its humble beginnings in 1982 with just 20 balloons, The Great Reno Balloon Race has taken flight with more than 100 balloons each year. Taking place just a few miles north of downtown Reno, the event enchants both young and old with its vibrant colors and inspiring music. The Balloon Race has won many awards over the years including 'Best Special Event in Reno' and 'Best Special Event in Northern Nevada.' With an average of 150,000 spectators attending the event each year, the number of lives touched by the beautiful spectacle continues to rise just like the balloons themselves.


   Twenty balloons participated. The idea was to create an event that would keep visitors in town the weekend between the State Fair and the Reno Air Races.


    The pre-dawn flight known as Dawn Patrol is a new phenomenon in the world of hot-air ballooning. In 1978, Federal Aviation officials approved strict flying regulations and standards that all pilots must use in predawn flight. These regulations include flying within an hour of sunrise along with special navigation lights that are located under the basket. In the late 80’s the Balloon Race Board of Trustees patented Dawn Patrol and began one of the community’s most popular traditions in 1990. Balloon rallies around the country use The Great Reno Balloon Race as a model in orchestrating their pre-dawn events.



   The Community Launch was added. The goal is to direct the balloons to a point on the launch field. This offers the audience a new perspective of the skill needed to fly a balloon as spectators witness the pilots navigating through the wind currents to get to a spot directly in front of them.


   Addition of the Glow Show, which was added to offer spectators an attraction as they wait for Dawn Patrol on Saturday and Sunday. It also helps to showcase our major supporters (on Saturday) and Special Shape balloon visitors (on Sunday). The Glow Show begins at 5 a.m.

Getting ready for a night take off


   Washoe County school children get involved with the event in the Tissue Paper Balloon Launch. This event gives school children a chance to positively interact with their community. One of the major goals of this project is to make sure that no funding comes out of the pocket of school teachers.  The thrill of winning big goes airborne as the Biggest Little City in the World hosts the biggest card game,  Balloon Blackjack. The casino-style action gives pilots a chance to throw two extra markers at huge face cards placed on the launch field. Those pilots hitting the highest hand most accurately win prizes.


   Regional art gets representation at the event due to an affiliation with the Sierra Arts Foundation and the Reno Gazette-Journal. Over a dozen artists were on-site featuring works at the Sierra Artists’ Tent, representing that the arts are alive in Reno. The Tissue Paper Balloon Launch received the prestigious
   Judges’ Choice Award given by the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public
Relations Society of America.

She just couldn't wait anymore!

   Attendance soared to new record levels at the 19th annual race, as over
135,000 spectators visited the event.


   The Great Reno Balloon Race celebrated its 20th Anniversary with the Birthday Cake balloon.

   ABC’s Good Morning America appeared at The Great Reno Balloon Race for live cut-ins of Dawn Patrol during their Friday morning show.


   The Great Reno Balloon Race hit record attendance with over 140,000 spectators attending the three-day event. Also,

   Serena’s Song, the only wheelchair accessible balloon in the United States, offered free tethered rides for wheelchair uses and people with disabilities throughout the weekend.


   The 25th Anniversary Great Reno Balloon Race was one for the record books! Saturday’s Balloon Race crowd of 75,000 was the highest in history. Throughout the event an estimated  175,000 spectators braved the early morning chill to celebrate 25 years of high-flying fun.

   CNN attended the event and The Great Reno Balloon Race also got coverage in worldwide media including Prestige Hong Kong, Every Day with Rachel Ray and The History Channel Magazine.

Event Highlights

    The early morning hour acts much like a good cup of coffee without the side effects. The air briskly releases hints of fall. Looking around you see acres of billowing fabric, gently introducing panels of vibrant color into the landscape. As hot air encompasses the material, the liftoff begins and your spirits ascend with the hot-air balloons as they take flight.
   The Great Reno Balloon Race is proud to feature the following events for your pleasure and enjoyment.

Filling the balloon for flight

E. L. Cord Tissue Paper Balloon Launch    
In conjunction with the Washoe County School District, and thanks to the generous support of the E.L. Cord Foundation, thousands of students will launch their hand-made tissue paper balloons into the air. This delightful sight is on Thursday and Friday at 9:30 am.

Glow Show
    Beginning at 5:00am on Saturday and Sunday, glowing balloons will act as a beacon to those sleepy spectators making their way to the launch field. Just follow the sound of "Dueling Banjos" and the distant glow of beautiful balloons. If that doesn't wake you up nothing will!

A night flight

Dawn Patrol
   A trademark of The Great Reno Balloon Race worth the early rise, the show features a handful of balloons that are qualified to fly in the dark. This is a dangerous task as atmospheric conditions change drastically as the sun begins to rise. Balloonists glow, twinkle and fly along with choreographed music across a darkened sky, leaving the crowd awe struck. Saturday and Sunday only.

 T-6 Formation Fly Over   Each morning during the national anthem, just as the American flag is presented for Mass Ascension, spectators will be thrilled by a T-6 formation fly over. Thanks to our partnership with National Championship Air Races, visitors can experience just a brief taste of what the Air Races are all about.

Wells Fargo Mass Ascension Launch
    Starting at 6:45am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, over 100 balloons will launch from Rancho San Rafael Park. The splendor of these unique and beautiful balloons thrills the crowd as they enjoy the multitude of vibrant sights and sounds in the early morning light.

Balloon Boulevard
   Crafts, souvenirs, food and warm drinks await spectators at the concession line. Official posters may also be purchased here along with official Balloon Race clothing and memorabilia. We encourage you to visit and support our vendors as they are part of the reason this event continues to be free.

Teaching a little about hot air balloon aviation

Balloon Blackjack
   Pilots try their hand at throwing markers at jumbo-sized playing cards placed on the field. Those hitting 21, or closest thereto, at the centermost spot on the cards win the hand of the day!

Tethered Rides    After Mass Ascension, the RE/MAX balloon provides tethered rides for children. These rides are available to the general public for a $5.00 donation to the "Children's Miracle Network."

  Special Shapes

   Each year The Great Reno Balloon Race features a variety of special shaped balloons to the delight of our spectators. Check back often to see what balloons will be flying the Reno skies during this year's event.

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