The Great Forest Park Balloon Race
presented by PNC Bank is thrilled to
return to Emerson Central Fields in
Forest Park for its 49th year.
More than 1,000 hot air balloons have taken part in the Great Forest Park Balloon Race over its unique history. This year, on September 17 & 18, this one-of-a-kind, free of charge St. Louis tradition will add more than 50 balloons to its total.
Filled with more than hot air – this annual September tradition brings families and friends together for a day of wow-moments, new experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanks to the generous contributions of our sponsors attendance is FREE and the number of memories and photographs you can capture is endless.
So, call all of your favorite folks and join us for one of St. Louis’ most beloved traditions!
Our weekend kicks off with the Balloon Glow on Friday evening. Central Fields will open with activities, food trucks, other concessions and live music kicking off at 5 pm.
The newly renovated fields will be abuzz with excitement in preparation for a beautiful sight after dusk (approx. 7 p.m.) when dozens of hot air balloons will inflate and glow like giant lanterns. Once the balloons are up – we will open the field – inviting attendees to walk amongst the glowing balloons, visit with pilots, snap photos and be a part of the excitement. Be sure and settle in and stay until the end – the PNC Bank fireworks finale is set for 9:15 pm – a spectacular way to celebrate a truly spectacular evening.
Join us Saturday as nearly 70 hot air balloons launch from Central Fields and fly across the St. Louis skyline. Join us as early as 1 p.m. to enjoy food, live music and local St. Louis youth performances on the Maryville University Main Stage, jump on inflatables in the Purina Children’s Entertainment Area and snap a a commemorative social media-worthy photo at “A View Worth Saving”, the new photo experience from PNC Bank! Tour the midway for photo opps, giveaways and new experiences from Children’s Hospital, KMOX, Marcus Theatres and many more.
HOW DOES THE RACE WORK?
Unlike a traditional race, the Great Forest Park Balloon Race is not based on speed. It is a hare and hound-style race. Launch time is 4:30 p.m. and all eyes will be on the PNC Bank balloon (the “Hare”), which launches first and lays out a large “X” on the ground next so where it lands. The other balloons (the “Hounds”) then try to follow the PNC Bank balloon as closely as possible, and the pilot who is able to drop a bean bag as close to the center of the “X” as possible wins.
A UNIQUE HISTORY
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is the second longest running balloon race in the country, and the only one that takes place in a large metropolitan city. The tradition began in 1973 with a handful of hot air balloons and a few spectators. Through the generous support of our sponsors, the event has grown to an internationally renowned event where multiple generations of many St. Louis families have made it their own tradition. For as many things that
have changed since the Race in 1973, one thing that will never change is that the event will stay free of charge.