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Preparations under way for Great Texas Balloon Race

Over 60 balloon pilots and their teams are making final preparations for the Great Texas Balloon Race, which starts this week in Longview, Gregg County, Texas. This annual event, which first took place in 1978, will this year, as it has done for the past three years, also host the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships. The winner and runner-up from this competition will both go on to represent the USA in the next World Hot Air Balloon Championship. A number of practice runs have already taken place, with the full support of a dedicated local operations team. The Longview event, which now takes place at the East Texas Regional Airport, is also a popular festival, with balloonists sharing in the sense of fun, offering special shape displays and a balloon glow, at which balloons are ignited as if about to take off, but are held down by their crews, creating an awe inspiring lighting effect. Texas based pilot Kinnie Gibson gives something of the flavour of the event:
"When you're competing against 50 of the best pilots in the U.S., and you're operating your aircraft trying to take care of your crew and work your strategy, it is very intense.
With temperatures for the week ahead, forecast to reach as high as 37 degrees the heat will certainly add to the intensity for competitors and spectators alike. However, so long as they follow official guidelines and stay hydrated, they should be rewarded with some competitive hot air ballooning of the highest standards.
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