Upcoming St. Louis Events
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The Great Forest Park Balloon Race
September 21, 2013 @ 12:00 pm - 6:30 pmFree
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Balloon Race at Central Field — 12:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – Festivities begin! Children’s Entertainment Area Opens
1:00 p.m. – School of Rock Entertainment Stages Open
2:00 p.m. – Photo Contest Sponsored by Wehrenberg Theaters & Suburban Journals 3:00 p.m. – Miller Lite Skydivers 3:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
4:30 p.m. – “Hare” Balloon Launch
4:45 p.m. – “Hound” Balloon Launch begins
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Should weather force the cancellation of the race on Saturday, the race will be held on Sunday. Please note that if the Glow is cancelled on Friday, it will not be rescheduled for another day
How This St. Louis Tradition Started
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race was founded by renowned balloonists Nikki Caplan and John O’Toole in 1973, and taken over by four, young, enthusiastic balloonists: John Marlow, John Schaumburg, Dan Schettler and Ted Staley in 1977. What started with four newly certified balloonists and a whimsical group dubbed the Mississippi River Balloon Transit Company, today hails as the organization of the most well-attended, single-day balloon race in the country.
“When we started 40 years ago, only one of us had ever seen a hot-air balloon,”says Marlow, the group’s president and president of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race, Inc. “We didn’t know we needed a license or insurance. We bought an old, used balloon much worse than buying an old, used car, and thought we’d just jump in and fly away.”
And fly away they did. Not only do the “fab four” continue to coordinate, organize and run this colossal event, but three of the four boast at least one Great Forest Park Balloon Race victory. “John Schaumburg missed winning by just two feet in 1983,” reminisces Schettler. “And we never let him forget it,” Staley adds.
The race, celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, is unique in that it originates from the middle of a major city, St. Louis. Attendance is free to more than 150,000 spectators who come out to watch 70 world-class balloon pilots compete in a race that is almost as exciting from the ground as it is in the air.
In 2013, the Race will be held on Central Field, near the Jewel Box, in Forest Park.
Parking & Transportation
Where to Park
Parking (and admittance) is free for the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Largest and closest parking area for the Launch site is the Muny Opera parking lot. Street parking is also available, but come early as most spots in the Park are full by 2 p.m. Come before 2 p.m. and enjoy a great day in the Park. All entrances to Forest Park will be open for the Balloon Race and Glow on Friday and Saturday, September 20-21, 2013.
Options to avoid Parking
Via Metro: Take MetroLink to the Central West End exit. Cross Kingshighway into the park directly to Central Field. Approximately 15 minute walk.
Is available adjacent to the balloon launch site. See the maps for exact locations. Additionally, there is a designated Handicap Drop-off area.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the race cost to watch?
Nothing! The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is free.
Am I allowed to bring pets?
Absolutely! There are even pet watering stations at the Purina Area on the northwest corner of the launch field.
What other activities will there be besides the race?
In addition to the actual balloon race, there is the Purina Children’s Entertainment area filled with pony rides, games, and other activities for kids. Also, an Entertainment Stage features a variety of local talent. Concession stands are available all around the race launch site. The Suburban Journals/Wehrenberg Photo contest provides an opportunity for the public to enter the balloon field and take pictures of their favorite balloons. Prizes will be awarded for the best photographs. Finally, the Skydiving Team performs shortly before the beginning of the race. Please see the schedule page for exact times.
What facilities are there for disabled people?
Special parking areas near the race field have been reserved for the disabled. Restrooms for the disabled are also available. Please look at the maps page for exact locations.
Do you know where the balloons are going to land?
Hot-air balloons follow the wind. We have no way of knowing which direction the ballons will travel until race day. Look at the forcast the day of the race to see which direction the winds are supposed to come from (and head towards).
Why is there no parking shuttle this year?
Because of the enormous crowd turnout we have at each race, the vehicle entrances to Forest Park are usually closed by 3pm. Therefore, it becomes too difficult for the shuttles to operate. Parking outside the park will be required if you arrive late and unfortunately, walking to the launch site is the only option.
Can I bring a cooler to the race and balloon glow?