The Great Forest Park Balloon Race

Once upon a time, I bought my mother something she had been dreaming about for a long time: a hot air balloon ride. One evening in 2007 we drove over the border to New Jersey and met with Rodger Kell, resident balloonist and owner of Have Balloon Will Travel. What followed was an awesome journey and quick lesson on ballooning (and an epic Mother’s Day gift that I have yet to beat .. please message me if anyone has information on helicopter rides ..).


lending a hand, 2007

I had been to another hot air balloon extravaganza in upstate New York, while visiting my then college roommate and her family. There is something awesome / terrifying about recognizing exactly what holds those monstrous balloons up in the air: heat, nylon and a basket. Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that but let’s be real: it’s kind of scary.

Balloonist Rodger Kell

Beyond the joys of balloon spotting while driving on the interstate in the summer, or hearing the telltale roar of the flames over our family’s lakefront property in New Hampshire, there is a great deal of science and beauty that pair up to make these balloons go. Oh and Mother Nature is a factor, too.

balloon nose

photo credit: Thao Dang, New Jersey 2008

So this weekend, Holly and I will take a trip over to Forest Park just outside of St. Louis to witness the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Admission is FREE (so is parking), entertainment abounds, and a photo contest is tucked in for good measure (and includes access to the balloon field). The website claims a history of 30+ years, and cites balloon fun for up to 130,000 spectators (mere pittance compared to our Derby experience last May which boasted 165,307). According to the site nearly 70 pilots are on the flight list, and leading the race will be the Energizer Hot Hare Balloon .. because … why not?

Have Balloon Will Travel, 2007

Up, up and away.


6 thoughts on “The Great Forest Park Balloon Race

    • Fine article. Yes, Forest Park is in the center of ST Louis, and house the art museum, zoo, history museum and more. Of course, as with the Great Forest Park Balloon Race — All free.

      I’m one of the four organizers of the Race — and, we all have real jobs. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is our way of giving back to wonderful St Louis.

      A little nit, that doesn’t make much difference — we have 80,000 attend the Glow on Friday night before the race , and about the same on Sat for the race. Since we don’t charge, we don’t really keep track — but we know a little. There are 23,000 parking places near the park. They’re gone 4 hours before each event. Figure 3 per car…but, who cares. It’s just for fun.

      Let me know how your visit was.


      • Thanks, John! And congrats on the 40th anniversary. Sadly we didn’t make it out to St. Louis for the event – life caught up with us and it’s a long drive to / from central Illinois. I did send one of my international colleagues in your general direction, so I look forward to his feedback.

        Hopefully we can join you next year 🙂


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