Grins of joy and excitement flashed across people’s faces as plans for this year’s Great Reno Balloon Race (GRBR) were revealed. New balloons and additions were announced in preparation for the 35th anniversary of this quintessential Reno event.
The event will take place from Sept. 9 through Sept. 11 at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.
“We’re excited,” said Pete Copeland, Executive Director of the GRBR. “It’s the 35th anniversary and there’s a lot of great things happening with the event. It’s been a year in the making, so we’re excited to see it come to fruition.”
Every year, visitors and locals flock to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park early in the morning to witness the balloon race. Over 120,000 people visit the event over the course of the three days. The family-oriented balloon race is free to the public.
“The event itself costs $700,000 to do,” said Copeland. “But then again, we have great partners and sponsors, and they’re the ones that allow us to bring these balloons in.”
Look for new balloons
Angry Birds, sponsored by the GRBR
Rio Grande Raider, sponsored by the May Foundation/Children’s Cabinet
Peg Leg Pete, sponsored by the May Foundation/Children’s Cabinet
Jewel, sponsored by the GRBR
SnoBird, sponsored by the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor’s Authority
Ms. Bell, sponsored by the GRBR
And old favorites
Walkin’ on Air, sponsored by Peppermill
Sushi, sponsored by Raley’s
Gus T. Guppy, sponsored by the GRBR
Soccer Ball, sponsored by Bonanza Casino
Pencil Boy, sponsored by the GRBR
Cent’r Stage, sponsored by Wells Fargo
Smokey the Bear, sponsored by the United States Forest Service
Special brews and other news
This year’s poster was designed by Shery Larson, who was chosen after designing the poster for the 34th anniversary of the event. The GRBR is partnering with Great Basin Brewing Company for the 31st year to bring “Dawn Patrol,” an IPA brewed specially for the balloon race. And for the first time ever, the GRBR will be selling an official license plate to raise funds for future balloon races.
The GRBR had some previous difficulties with its funding. Copeland approached County Commissioner Kitty Jung in 2014 and requested to waive the fees for the 2015 race. It was a difficult position to be in for everyone involved—either waive the fees and keep the balloon race, or not have the event at all. However, the county was able waive the fees for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 balloon races.
“It’s an iconic Washoe County event. It’s on our website, our opening page is pictures of the balloons,” said County Commissioner Kitty Jung. “It is something that I don’t think the community would have allowed it to go away, frankly. But it also is such an economic driver for Northern Nevada. I mean, room nights, sales tax; the type of things that Reno has had to diversify outside of casinos to ensure that we have a thriving economy.”
The GRBR began in 1982 as a placeholder between the Nevada State Fair and the Reno Championship Air Races. Since then, it has grown and become the world’s largest balloon race.
On Friday, Sept. 10 at 9 a.m., children from all over Washoe County will take part in the E.L. Cord Tissue Paper Balloon Launch at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. These students will launch hand-made hot air balloons.
For more information, visit the Great Reno Balloon Races website.