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Changes to Great American Balloon Race designed to give more an opportunity to ride

The annual Great American Balloon Race is set to take off Friday at the Danville-Boyle County Airport as part of the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville.
The annual Great American Balloon Race is set to take off Friday at the Danville-Boyle County Airport as part of the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville. 2018 file photo

If riding in a hot air balloon is on your bucket list, this weekend might be a good time to check it off.

Danville’s annual Great American Balloon Race will take off Friday at the Danville-Boyle County Airport. People will be able to come and take a ride in a tethered hot air balloon during the event which is part of the annual Great American Brass Band Festival on Centre College’s campus.

In previous years, there was a hot air balloon race — hence “Great American Balloon Race”. But this year General Manager of Hometown Radio Network Robert Wagner said they wanted to do something special for the 30th anniversary of the festival and balloon event.

“We wanted to do something different,” Wagner said. “We used to have one balloon that was tethered but the line was so long not everybody was able to ride.”

The event will feature 10 balloons. While it is still being called a race, all balloons will stay tethered to the airport and attendees can take a ride for $10 per person.

“Tethered rides cost a little more,” Wagner said. “So we had to add a little fee in order to be able to pay for it. Finding a sponsor for 10 balloons would have been near impossible.”

Admission and parking to the event are free. The Circle City Sidewalk Stompers will be performing before balloon take-offs, and there will be free inflatables for kids, food and activities. Gates open at 4 p.m. and hot air balloon inflation begins at 7 p.m.

The pilots of the balloons come from both Indiana and Kentucky. If weather is not permitting, the race will be rescheduled to Sunday.

The Great American Brass Band Festival begins Thursday with events running through Sunday afternoon. A full schedule of events can be found at gabbf.org.

The festival occurs every June and features various brass bands from all around the Bluegrass and the United States, including some coming from Europe. It’s the longest running brass band festival in the nation and is free and volunteer-run.

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The New Orleans Storyville Stompers close out the parade for the 27th Annual Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville in 2016.

“Volunteers are such an integral part of this,” Chair of Fundraising and Media Committee Angela Allen said. “This 30th celebration is really celebrating our volunteers.”

While there are some newer volunteers participating in the festival, some have been volunteering every year for the last 30 years. According to Allen, around 10 to 25 thousand people attend annually.

This year’s event will feature different bands such as Advocate Brass Band, Heartland Winds, Saxton’s Cornet Band, Metrognomes and more. While there are performances everyday throughout the festival, the majority of concerts will be on Saturday.

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