Clear, cool conditions at 18th annual Gatesway Balloon Fest
Staff Reports Claremore Progress
Nearly 30 hot-air balloons filled the skies over Claremore during a balloon competition Saturday morning. The competition was part of the 18th annual Gatesway Balloon Festival held Friday and Saturday at the Cherokee Will Rogers Downs.
As one of the main attractions during the weekend event, the “hare and hound” competition began a couple miles from the festival site where a large target is placed by the (hare) balloon. Pilots (hounds) then fly their balloon toward the target, dropping a weighted marker as close as they can to the X. The balloon with the closest drop receives the highest score.
Other activities for attendees included arts and crafts exhibits sponsored by Michael’s, inflatables for children, tethered balloon rides, lawn mower races, cake decorating contest and the popular Balloon Glow. One of the balloon flights were canceled Friday morning due to rainy and windy conditions, however the skies cleared up just in time for the Balloon Glow that evening.
Pilots took turns feeding light throughout the balloons while spectators watched from a distance, admiring the array of colors, shapes and sizes.
This year, the Gatesway Balloon Festival featured “Annie” a 425-lady bug and “Freedom” the American Bald Eagle. “Freedom” stands 140 feet tall, and weighs 650 pounds
Joe Williams, marketing and volunteer coordinator for Gatesway, said the festival is usually held in August, but since the past three years have had 112-degree temperatures, the event was moved back a month, making conditions more ideal for spectators and pilots.