MUSKOGEE, Okla. (Aug. 20, 2018) – Oklahoma’s clear summer skies were the backdrop Friday and Saturday evenings for a successful inaugural event. The Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning was held at Muskogee’s historic Hatbox Field where 25 balloon teams entertained the crowds estimated at over 10,000 people. Several of the teams inflated their hot air balloons on the field and flew over parts of the city with passengers while the others stayed on the grounds to glow for the spectators. Three of the balloons provided hundreds of short tether rides while the crowd enjoyed wonderful live music, great food, family-friendly activities and a finale fireworks show each evening.
Late summer rainstorms moving through the region and quickly developing fog cancelled morning flights. The pilots had hoped to fly championship-qualifying tasks each morning in the Oklahoma Hot Air Balloon Championship in an effort to take home the Governor’s Trophy. However, those flying each evening still competed in “hare and hound” tasks with a lead balloon setting out ahead of the others and laying out a target for the pilots to drop a weighted marker as close to the center as possible.
Pilot Michael Scott flying “Spirit’s Rainbow” volunteered to serve as the hare balloon both evenings. On Friday evening Bill Lynch in “Sizzler” placed first, Amanda Sabia in “High and Free” placed second and Dennis Short in “Champagne Cowboy” placed third. On Saturday evening Jon Pierce in “Upon A Star” placed first, Dennis Short in “Champagne Cowboy” placed third and Blair Kaufman in “Stars and Stripes” placed third.
The event was presented by Muskogee Parks & Recreation Department with hot air balloon event management provided by Kansas City AeroSports. Additional support was provided by The City of Muskogee, Muskogee Tourism and The Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We are very impressed with the warm welcome from the community of Muskogee and have enjoyed working with Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson and his whole team. The balloon pilots and crew members all wholeheartedly applauded when we asked if they’d like to return,” said Chris Sabia of Kansas City AeroSports, balloonmeister and event manager of the Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning. “We look forward to bringing the trophy back to award it to the Oklahoma State Champion next year in Muskogee and helping to grow the event along with this community.”
For further comments and information about the event, sponsorships and the City of Muskogee – Parks and Recreation’s plans for future events, please contact Mark Wilkerson director of Parks and Recreation at (918) 684-6302 x-1472. Please also visit the event Facebook page @OkieBalloonFest for further information.