Western Nebraska chosen for National Hot Air Balloon Championships

NASA / Jay Levine / MGN
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Scottsbluff, Neb. - More balloons will be seen in the skies of Scotts Bluff County over the next few years.

The communities of Gering-Scottsbluff-Mitchell have been chosen for the Balloon Federation of America U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships. The events will be held there in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The Nationals is an annual weeklong event that brings together top balloon competitors from across the United States as they vie for the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the biennial World Hot Air Balloon Championship. Community support for the current Old West Balloon Fest helped sway officials as well as favorable weather conditions.

“For spectators, visitors and balloon enthusiasts in the Gering-Scottsbluff-Mitchell area, the BFA U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship will mean more balloons flying overhead in our Western Nebraska skies. A total of 50 or more balloons will color the summer skies above the area for an entire week competing for the title of US National Champion and the right to represent the United States in the next World Championship”, according to Hunter Kosman, President of Old West Balloon Fest.

The economic impact of the event is expected to be at least a $1.2 million. Of course, with an event like this, volunteers will be needed. Colleen Johnson, Old West Balloon Fest Executive Director, says they’ll need about 250 volunteers to help in a variety of areas.

“Some of the volunteers will be helping the pilots get their balloons.” Said Johnson. “These pilots haven’t flown here before, so they’ll need someone to drive their chase vehicles, somebody that knows the area. They’ll also need 3 or 4 different teams of scorers if they have four or five targets.”

Preparations for hosting the US Nationals begins immediately by the Old West Balloon Fest Board of Directors and US National Organizing Committee; first priority is securing sponsorships and business/individual participation from around the region for everyone to part of this national hot air ballooning event.

Dates for the 2018 Old West Balloon Fest celebration have been moved to coincide with the dates for the U.S. National Competitions to be held in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The dates for Old West Balloon Fest and Nationals for the next four years are as follows:
August 17-19, 2018 – Old West Balloon Fest 2018
August 13-18, 2019 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2019
August 11-16, 2020 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2020
August 10-15 2021 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2021

The Scottsbluff-Gering-Mitchell area was one of three finalists, including Gillette, Wyoming, and Iowa.