The Great Reno Balloon Race
Every year since 1982, Reno has hosted The Great Reno Balloon Race (GRBR), which has steadily grown from its humble beginnings of just 20 balloons to boasting up to 100 balloons annually. It has now become a beloved community tradition, as well as the largest free hot air ballooning event in the world, averaging 120,000 spectators each year!
Still within our first year of being Reno locals, Justin and I couldn’t bear to miss this community event held annually in early September. We managed to pry ourselves from our cozy bed to arrive at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in downtown Reno not long after 4am. Despite the early time, there were already hundreds of spectators roaming about, coffee or hot chocolate in hand, sleepy-eyed children in tow, awaiting the start of the day’s festivities.
After grabbing a healthy breakfast of cheese and bacon covered tator tots washed down with two steaming cups of coffee, Justin and I made our way to the field where people were gathering. Around 5am, a handful of hot air balloons began the Glow Show, coordinating their glowing balloons with music to the amusement of the attendees sprawled out on the lawn tucked in their blankets to keep warm from the chilly morning air.
Just before sunrise around 6am, the GRBR featured its trademark event of Dawn Patrol. This part showcased hot air balloons and pilots who have been approved to fly in the dark, which can be a dangerous task as the atmospheric conditions drastically change as the sun rises.
Right on schedule, the highly anticipated mass ascension of hot air balloons occurred around 7am just after sunrise. The entire field area became scattered with crews assembling their hot air balloons and filling the canopies with heated air from the large burner. Then, one by one, they slowly ascended into the air creating a vibrant array of colorful and uniquely shaped balloons.
Only those who risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go.