Perfect Weather For 25th Anniversary Of New Haven Hot Air Balloon Race But What Happens After Balloons Take Off

Pictured is the Pepsi balloon landing ("hare" balloon) while the rest of the balloons chase after it.

By Kyle Quick

NEW HAVEN, Mo. - You could not have asked for better weather for Saturday’s New Haven Hot Air Balloon Race presented by Pepsi, celebrating their 25th Anniversary as an estimated 3,000 people filled the New Haven City Park, all hoping to see the sky filled with balloons.  Especially since it was 2011 when the weather last cooperated enough for the balloons to lift off.

As the balloons eventually vanished, the vast majority of people are left wondering where did they land, who won, and pondering with the question of what exactly is a Balloon Race? (Below is video footage from the end of the race.)

I have been very blessed over the years with the opportunity of being at the end of the race and
seeing how the winner is determined.

Pictured is Joe Nursrala making the winning throw of this year's race and he was sponsored by Backes and Toelke.  Nursrala also won the Forest Park Hot Air Balloon Race in 2013.

The Hot Air Balloon Race is referred to a “hare and hound” race, which means that the hare balloon (Pepsi Football Balloon) takes flight first.  The “hound” balloons can not begin to inflate until the Pepsi Balloon has lifted off.  Every pilot has a different strategy, some will try to launch as quickly as possible while others will wait and follow them.

It’s not about getting to where the Pepsi Balloon landed the fastest as it is strategy because after the Pepsi Ballon landed they put out a yellow “X”.  So as the Pepsi Balloon lands, the pilots first will closely watch what direction the ground winds or lower level winds affected the “hare” balloon and closely keeping an eye of where exactly it went down.

In second place was Greg Hanson who flew the big Wehrenberg Theaters Popcorn Balloon.

As balloons approach the “X”, hoping they are still on the right path, pilots take a beanbag and fling it from their balloon towards the “X”.  Each beanbag is then measured from the center of the “X” and whoever is the closest wins, which sounds pretty simple.

However, as you will see in the video below, it’s not as easy as it sounds because as a balloon descends the wind could slightly be blowing in a different direction, forcing the balloon to suddenly change directions as well. 

And in the video you will see exactly what I mean.

But the New Haven Hot Air Balloon Race would never be possible without the support of all the following sponsors.

Backes & Toelke Agri Products, Bank of Franklin County, Citizens Bank, Edward Jones of New Haven – Jim Stiles, Hair, Larry Hanks Paint & Drywall, Peoples Savings Bank, Quick News Now, Robller Vineyard Winery, Quick’s Save-A-Lot and Shear Connection Salon & Spa.

The red mark on the image below is where the "hare" balloon landed.