Department of Tourism
Derby Balloons to Soar in Festival Events
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 2006 U.S. Bank Derby Festival Great Balloon Race will feature contests both Friday and Saturday mornings, along with a new event this year – a preview lift-off from Shawnee Park in West Louisville Thursday evening.
The balloon events are one of Louisville's favorite family traditions. When about 50 balloons lift off in the races Friday April 28 and Saturday April 29, spectators young and old will experience an exhilarating view of varied colors and shapes.
The Friday and Saturday races begin at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center at 7 a.m. Just 11 balloons flew in the inaugural race from Iroquois Park in 1973. About a dozen balloons will participate in this year’s Shawnee Park event on Thursday, scheduled for 6 p.m.
Saturday’s Great Balloon Race follows the traditional ballooning game of "Hare and Hound." The U.S. Bank balloon leads the action as "the hare." The other balloons rush in pursuit of the hare, after being launched in a planned sequence minutes after the hare. The hounds try to drop a bag of bluegrass seed closest to the target marked by the U.S. Bank balloon.
The pilot with the most accurate toss wins $5,000 plus bragging rights for a year.
Admission to the events is free when you wear a 2006 Pegasus Pin. Parking for all the Fairgrounds events costs $5.
Another attraction of the balloon race weekend is the U.S. Bank Derby Festival Great Balloon Glow. In these companion events to the races, the balloons inflate in their launch positions on the field, but do not ascend. The Glows, set for 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Fairgrounds, rival the races in popularity with balloon watchers. On Thursday at 8:30 p.m., there also will be a Great Balloon Glimmer at Waterfront Park.