July 26 to 28 will mark the 36th year of the Great Texas Balloon Race, but this year Longview and East Texas is having a full week of high flying balloons in the sky because the Balloon Federation of America’s Hot Air Competition Division holds the United States National Championship race in conjunction with the event.

An early morning practice flight started the week for the National Championship. Competitive flights for the National event started Tuesday and will continue each morning through Sunday, July 28. The Great Texas Balloon Race will join the on-going competition on Fri., July 26 through Sun., July 28. After the Friday morning flight over Longview, the Festival will open at 4pm at East Texas Regional Airport.

As always, the Great Texas Balloon Race festival will have live concerts both Friday and Saturday nights. This year will feature Cody Canada & the Departed on Friday, and legendary Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers on Saturday. And no GTBR festival would be complete without the fantastic Balloon Glows which nightly entertain crowds with an awesome display of color and excitement.

Understandably, they have become one of the most popular things to do at the event even allowing the public to get up close and watch how balloons are inflated and operated. And, there is something for kids. Kids Land is a safe and restricted area for children which require a small separate entry fee. Activities and attractions differ from year to year but it is always a fun time.

Vendors will be there to display their arts, crafts and other merchandise in booths lined up along an improvised midway. Food Vendors make sure there is always enough to eat and drink during the day and evening. Considered by many of the pilots that compete to be the best run event on the circuit, the Great Texas Balloon Race earned Longview the official designation as “The Balloon Capital of Texas” by the Governor of Texas in 1985.

This year, Gregg County was named the Balloon Race Capital of Texas by the 83rd Legislature of Texas. All competitive flights through Friday will take place and be viewable over the City of Longview and parts of Gregg County – not at the East Texas Regional Airport.