“This year, the Great Texas Balloon Race directors chose to go above and beyond again by providing sculpture for Longview,” Kim Droege, executive director, Keep Longview Beautiful.


The 40th celebration of the Great Texas Balloon Race was full of wonders. If Kim Droege, Keep Longview Beautiful executive director is involved, you can be rest assured that she will keep the surprises coming. Indeed, she had a surprise for everyone-the unveiling of the next piece of sculpture for the ART from the heart program that commemorates the first 40 fabulous years of the Great Texas Balloon Race. Like GTBR, ART from the heART projects are accomplished by a group of like-minded, passionate people who want to transform Longview.

Droege in her usual manner, started out thanking people who make positive contributions to the community. First in line was the fabulous directors of the Great Texas Balloon Race. She dubbed the directors a “powerful volunteer machine.” “This year you chose to go above and beyond again by providing sculpture for Longview,” she said. “I hope all of you are as proud of this piece of art. Thank you for all you do for this community.” Of course, a round of applause thundered from every corner of the VIP tent.

Then she asked Carmen Gadt the artist to stand. Carmen was born and raised in Longview. She graduated from Pine Tree High School in 2010. As a little girl, she watched her first Great Texas Balloon Race perched on her Daddy’s shoulders. This same Carmen graduated from Southwestern with a degree in Fine Arts. Currently, she is a teacher and coach at her almer mater, Pine Tree school. “Carmen, we are extremely blessed to have you as the artist of this fabulous piece of art,” Droege said. “You have handled this project with grace, passion and excellence.” Again, Carmen received a thundering round of applause.

In addition, Droege thanked Dr. Bill Bussey, Brian Lowe, Adam Graves, Bobby and Jeannie Hammer; Herc Rental, East Texas Forklift, James Grant, owner of Premier Builders; Robert McGown and Phillip Ford. There is more.
The next person on Droege’s radar was Michelle Ford. She oversaw the VIP Sponsors Pilots’ Dinner. Droege without reservations expressed her heart-felt gratitude to Ford. “A huge thank you for my sweet friend Michelle Ford. You took the lead on this project for your entire team and I am extremely proud of you,” Droege said. “Nothing I love more than working and giggling with this woman.”

Finally, everyone trouped outside for the unveiling of the ART from the heART.


Carol Sammons, Bill Alder, Johnny Sammon and Kelli Cook

  Jan Maynard and Kim Droege

Debbie Leith and Les Rickett

Karen Kent, Bob Smith and Kelly Forest

Katy Sullenger, Ben Sullenger, Chole Baker, Mitch White, Larry Barnett and Cody Bryant


Joanna Burrows, Patricia Newman and Karen Wright

Kelli Cook, Bill Alder and Ramey Carroll

Patricia Newman, Chelsea Cace and Starlia Fennell

Sculpture designed by Carmen Gadt for The Great Texas Balloon Race 40th Year

Michelle Ford and Rhonda Bullard

Kim Droege, Carmen Gadt and Michelle Ford