Absolutely Awesome - The Great Reno Balloon Race 2023
By Willie Bodenstein. Photos supplied.
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The Great Reno Balloon Race (GBR) that this year celebrated its 42nd anniversary, is a hot-air balloon race held annually in September in Reno, Nevada at the Rancho San Rafael Park. First organised in 1982 with twenty balloons participating the race this year attracted more than 130 colourful balloons that floated above Reno in the early hours of the mornings of the 8th to the 10th of September.
The event is free to the public and is the largest free hot-air ballooning event in the USA and one of the biggest hot air balloon events worldwide. Visitors can walk right up to the balloons while the pilots prepare to take off and get an experience that is unlike anything else in the world.
The race draws entrants from throughout the United States as well as numerous other countries and are visited by more than 150,000 spectators each year.
One of the most spectacular shows over the three-day event is the Race's, Dawn Patrol. The term was patented by the board of trustees when Federal Aviation officials approved predawn balloon flying regulations in 1978. Safety precautions such as special navigation lights became the status quo and the Great Reno Balloon Race quickly became a national role model for pre-dawn events in 1990 when it began launching balloons before sunrise. During Dawn Patrol, pilots face unstable, pre-dawn air conditions. The Dawn Patrol marks the beginning of the balloon race.
After eight years of the Dawn Patrol, yet another attraction was added. Just before Dawn Patrol, pilots light their lanterns for the Glow Show. The balloons take on an almost fictional appearance, not unlike a paper lantern, which marks the beginning of the balloon race.
The sheer wonderous spectacle of ballooning and the almost prehistoric sounds of the burners makes any ballooning event something that will always remain with one. The Reno Great Race takes this in typically US fashion to the next level and it is one of those events that one should endeavour to visit at least once in once's lifetime.