Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Great Texas Balloon Race Morning Flight

I shared yesterday some photos from the evening Great Texas Balloon Race event. But, our family's unanimous favorite part of the GTBR is the morning event!

We took chairs this year! Here we are settled and waiting for the balloons to take off.
We leave the house at 5:00 am so we can get to the site in time. It is fun to arrive at the big open field behind the airport when it is still darkish and watch the sun light up the clouds. Then it is time to just wait.
One by one tiny balloons pop up over the horizon from the take off point about 2 miles away until there are more than 50 balloons in the air. Slowly, slowly they grow bigger until they sail right over your head!

See how low the balloonists drop?
The morning event is a contest and the balloonists have several tasks to accomplish during the flight. There is a pole surrounded by an orange circle and two crescent shaped areas near the edges of the target zone. The audience is seated on the edge of the target zone 300 feet away from the pole.

Balloonists coming over the Waxing Gibbous Moon - see the white on the ground below the black and gold balloon.
The balloonists try to drop two white projectiles in the crescent shaped areas or the orange circle. These shapes represent the Waning Gibbous Moon, the Full Moon, and the Waxing Crescent Moon. The best score comes by dropping your projectile within the targets, but as far from each other as possible. Each day and each year have a different target - the other race this year was a baseball diamond and they had to hit the bases. What fun it would be to plan the different goals for each year!

Tossing projectiles into the orange 'Full Moon' and heading for the pole.
They have two more tasks. The red projectile is supposed to be dropped as close to the pole as possible within the orange circle, but they get points as long as it is within the 300 foot target zone. Finally, the balloonist has a small hoop about 8 inches in diameter that they try to drop over the pole itself. Last year a couple of the balloonists actually reached out and grabbed the pole to drop their ring over. It is pretty cool to see the balloon that close to the ground!

Trying to get the hoop on the pole
This year the winds really did not cooperate. The first to launch never even came close to the target zone and we thought we wouldn't get to see any of the balloons up close. But over the course of an hour the winds changed just enough to bring several balloons right over the targets and the crowd.
Two balloons that couldn't get to the target zone and landed.

Usually the shaped balloons take off and after passing the target zone they land right next to the crowd, but this year, due to the lack of wind, only a few shaped balloons launched. One aired up for the crowd but stayed on the ground and the bumble bees didn't even unpack.

Awww. I think Coco the clown just hated to land - he looks so sad!

Once the pack of balloons are gone from the target area we gathered our chairs and headed for breakfast!


1 comment:

mimi said...

beautiful pictures! I remember when they started the baloon flyins. We had so much fun and we didn't have to be there at 5am. Boy, that's early!
love, m