Up, Up and Away – the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race

Let me start off by saying I’m just a little bit behind way behind on writing any posts from the various places I have visited over the last couple of months.  Way behind is an understatement, as I haven’t even begun to go through the thousands of photos that have been taken this year…..slow and steady and I might actually get caught up by the year 2025….

For years I’ve wanted to visit the largest free hot air balloon event in the country, the Great Reno Balloon Race, held the weekend after Labor Day every year, this year on September 7-9, 2012.  Unfortunately, the timing has just never worked out as there was somebody on vacation at work or other scheduling conflicts that invaribly would come up.  This year, however, the stars were aligned (or maybe the winds were just blowing in the right direction) and I was able to take a long weekend and fly to Reno to photograph this event.

Hot air balloons during the cold inflation process at the Great Reno Balloon Race.

Hot air balloons during the cold inflation process at the Great Reno Balloon Race.

For those not familiar with hot air balloon events, let me tell you, they start very early (you definitely want to be there before sun up to find a good vantage point and take in all the hullaballoo that goes along with the events from watching the balloon envelopes being laid out, the pre-firing of the burners, the cold inflation process, until finally the balloons are inflated and as a group they rise in a mass ascension as the suns rays start to warm the day.

Darth Vadar rises above the multitude of balloons at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race.

Darth Vadar rises above the multitude of balloons at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race.

The Great Reno Balloon Race does a really spectacular thing called the Dawn Patrol.  Seven specially trained hot air balloon pilots take to the skies before the sun comes up and fly over the skies of Reno in the pre dawn hours giving spectators the thrill of seeing their hot air balloons lit up against a deep blue sky (and the moon).

Balloons during the glow in at the Great Reno Balloon Race

Balloons during the glow in at the Great Reno Balloon Race

There is also a Glow In in the morning before the mass ascension in which 7-9 balloons stay on the ground and perform a synchronized light show.  This year, they attempted to do “Dueling Banjo’s” with a couple of balloons acting as the “banjos” and a couple of balloons acting as the “guitars”….it’s quite a spectacle especially once they all get going towards the end of the song.

The hot air balloon, "Free Spirit", piloted by Dana Thornton participates in the Dawn Patrol at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race

The hot air balloon, “Free Spirit”, piloted by Dana Thornton participates in the Dawn Patrol at the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race

After the Dawn Patrol and the Glow In, two balloons (this year there was only one as the envelope of the other was damaged and needed to be reparied) take to the skies – one displaying the US Flag and the other displaying the State of Nevada flag – as the “Star Spangled Banner” is sung by a local artist.  As the balloons slowly rise in the skies, there is a fly over performed by T-6 aircraft.  After that, the remaining pilots begin inflating their balloons and as the sun warms the spectators, they launch to go wherever the winds carry them…….

Close to 100 balloons take to the skies above Reno in the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race.

Close to 100 balloons take to the skies above Reno in the 2012 Great Reno Balloon Race.

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