Skip to Content

‘I wouldn’t miss this race’: Pilots preparing for Derby Festival Great Balloon Race

<i>WLKY</i><br/>More than 30 balloons will fly through the sky on Saturday morning in the Kentucky Derby Festival's Great Balloon Race.
WLKY
More than 30 balloons will fly through the sky on Saturday morning in the Kentucky Derby Festival's Great Balloon Race.

By Addie Meiners

Click here for updates on this story

    LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WLKY) — More than 30 balloons will fly through the sky on Saturday morning in the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Great Balloon Race.

The balloons will take off from Bowman Field, and follow the leader, called the “hare” balloon, to a location. The hare balloon will land and lay out a target in an open field for the racers to aim at. The balloons will then float by and drop a marker as close to the target as possible. The closest drop wins.

Many pilots, like Brian Beazly, have been in the race for years. This is the 43rd year participating for Beazly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss this race,” Beazly said. “It’s definitely friendly competition. Everybody wants to win, but nobody’s going to do anything crazy to beat somebody else.”

Bill Smith, another pilot and the president of the Kentucky Balloon Society, said this year he has a strategy to win.

“A lot of times, they will force you to go early in the race. And my strategy is to pretend that I’m not quite ready to go and let some of the other balloons go first,” Smith said, referring to dropping their bags at the target.

Scott McClinton, the hare balloon pilot, won in 1998.

“Now, I’ve become the permanent hare balloon. So I always tell everybody I went out a winner,” McClinton said. “I lead them. I know where the X is going to be. I’m always going to be the closest guy to the X because it’s in my basket ’til we arrive.”

He may not have to plan a strategy to aim at the X, but finding the perfect spot for hundreds of people to gather is a challenge in itself.

Kentucky Derby FestivalKentucky Derby Festival marks 50 years of its miniMarathon “The first thing I have to do is I have to figure out a place I can land, the helicopter for the police can land to do crowd control, all the TV stations can get into, and it can’t be a tight area because I’ve got 20 balloons coming in behind me,” McClinton said.

All three pilots will take flight on Friday morning for the KDF ‘Rush Hour Race,’ where the balloons will fly high over the city to preview what’s to come on Saturday.

Friday night, you can meet all the pilots at the Great Balloon Glow, hosted at the Kroger Fest-a-Ville at Waterfront Park at 9 p.m.

Saturday morning, the balloons will take off from Bowman Field, and race to an unknown location (remember, it’s up to McClinton in the hare balloon), where they’ll all try to be crowned the 2023 Great Balloon Race champion.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION

KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content