Thursday, July 5, 2012
The Great Texas Balloon Race
... organizers have extended the Great Texas Balloon Race from the traditional three-day weekend to a full week ...
The Great Texas Balloon Race enters rarefied air this July, and two Gregg County communities plan to take advantage with downtown-centric events.
For the second consecutive year, businesses in downtown Longview are moving their summer Art Walk festivities, usually scheduled for the first Thursday in July, to the final Thursday, July 26. The later date coincides with what will be the final day of national balloon race competition.
In early 2011, Great Texas Balloon Race organizers learned that the annual event, held in Gregg County since the late 1970s, will also play host to the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In past years, the Great Texas Balloon Race attracted about 50 ballooning teams annually. Crowning a national champion will add as many as 20 or 30 more teams, balloon race spokeswoman Gai Bennett told us. Because of strict guidelines with the national race, organizers have extended the Great Texas Balloon Race from the traditional three-day weekend to a full week, July 23-29.
Longview and Kilgore took note.
“On Wednesday, July 25, the second day of official racing will take place over the skies in Kilgore throughout the morning. That afternoon and evening, municipal and Main Street leaders plan to open downtown Kilgore streets to vendors, music and entertainment in what is referred to as a ‘block party,’” Bennett said.
Events Friday, Saturday and Sunday will take place at the East Texas Regional Airport near Lakeport as in past years. On Thursday, July 26, however, downtown Longview has scheduled an Art Walk from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. in hopes of becoming the destination for pilots, balloon race enthusiasts and residents after that morning’s competition.
Art Walk is a self-guided tour of downtown businesses who exhibit and sell art. Musicians and other performance arts are frequently part of the event, according to artwalklongview.com.
“I think it is a unique event for Longview, and it’s unique especially for people who don’t work downtown and never come downtown,” Longview Museum of Fine Arts Director Renee Hawkins said. “You may have someone who lives in Pine Tree or Spring Hill, they work on the Loop, and there is never any reason for them to come downtown, so they never know of any of the changes that happen here or when something has opened up or improved itself.”
Hawkins joins local photographer Tammy Cromer-Campbell and graphic design business owner Holly Forbes in organizing downtown Longview Art Walks. They schedule the events traditionally on Thursdays in early April, July and October, but organizers have tweaked that schedule to coincide with specific downtown events. Another such change took place this year, when art walks were held this spring on Fridays in conjunction with Downtown Live!, which attracts patrons to Heritage Plaza for music and other activities.
Most businesses that participate in Art Walk Downtown Longview are along Tyler Street as well as intersecting roads such as Center, Fredonia and Green streets. Those businesses include stores who feature artists in hopes that their displayed works will entice shoppers, but Hawkins said other businesses, such as the Pelaia law firm and Network IP, also feature local artists in support of Art Walk.
“There is an Art Walk website where business owners and artists can go,” Hawkins said, referring to artwalklongview.com. “If they (a downtown property owner/store operator) don’t work with artists on a daily basis, that gives them a simple way to choose an artist or say that they want to highlight an artist.”
As to whether hot air ballooning is an art form, Hawkins gave her stamp of approval.
“It’s just like architecture is art. Designing a house is an artistic endeavor. It’s like food is art. Cuisine and the way you present it on the plate, that is an art,” Hawkins said. “The balloons are a great example of color and shape and design. I think it would be fabulous to design a balloon. That’s whipping out your color pencils and color markers and designing a pleasing shape. It’s all about aesthetics.”
Art Walk Downtown Longview has events scheduled for Oct. 4 and Dec. 7, set for 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on both dates.