The first evening of the Fiesta, weather permitting, is the launch of the gas balloons. These balloon teams compete for the longest distance traveled non-stop. This too is an international event, named America’s Challenge, with teams from Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United States. Teams can also be comprised of members from other countries.
About 6:30 pm, each of the balloons were launched separately after being filled with hydrogen, loading equipment, adjusting ballast, announcing the crew, and playing the given country’s national anthem. Then they ascended to the rousing cheers of spectators.
You will notice that the balloons are all white in color to reflect the heat from the sun in order to reduce the gas loss when it expands. The balloons are not “sealed” so that they can handle the expansion of the gas. The crews want to conserve the gas as much as possible because there is no way to fill up! Flights of 60 plus hours are common and they travel hundreds of miles. The teams on the ground spoke of them possibly reaching New England or Canada . The balloon crews have meteorological personnel to help with weather, obtaining the best altitude, and avoiding bad weather like huricane Nate.
As I write this, most of the teams are over Kansas. You can see where the competitors are via the Fiesta website: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/gas-balloons/gas-tracking
Immediately following the launch of the gas balloons, the crowd pleasing event commences named the “Balloon Glow”.
The hot air balloons do not lift off, but inflate showing off their beautiful colors in the twilight. It is an experience not to be missed.
If that is not enough for the spectator, the evening concludes with a laser light show and a fireworks display.