September in the Reno/Tahoe area opens up with floating bees, bears, Tony the Tiger and even Jesus Christ on a bed of clouds. The Great Reno Balloon Race is a wonderful introduction to the fall season and the special events that take place in the cooler months.
The Great Reno Balloon Race is the largest free hot air ballooning event in the nation and is held September 10-12 at Rancho San Rafael Park near downtown Reno. The days start out very early with the Dawn Patrol (usually around 4 a.m.). The Dawn Patrol balloons light up the dark morning light with a fantastic glow show accompanied with music. Spectators arrive in the dark with blankets and line up for pancakes and coffee at the numerous food booths, and then cuddle up in the cold to watch the show. When the sun rises and the light hits the park, the rest of the hundreds of balloons begin to inflate. Participants are allowed to walk among the balloons and view the crews as they attempt to get the colorful orbs into the air.
Each balloon is attempting to compete and win in several competitions. These include Balloon Blackjack, and several Fly in Tasks in which balloons try to fly to a certain point to drop a sandbag on a pre-determined goal. For spectators, this year’s event will also feature a bed head competition, a pajama party and a tissue paper balloon launch.
Parking can be an issue at the park and spaces fill up before the Dawn Patrol. The best thing is to park at the University of Nevada campus or catch a ride with an RTC bus, which will be offering park and ride service to and from The Great Reno Balloon Race on Saturday and Sunday. RTC RIDE has pickup points at RSCVA Convention Center, Parking Lot C, Reed High School and downtown Reno’s Citicenter. To print a list of specific times, locations and fares please click here, or for more information please call (775) 348-RIDE or go to the RTC Web site www.rtcwashoe.com.