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About 45th Annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival

The South's oldest balloon event and the United States' only long distance hot air balloon race will begin (weather permitting) with a mass ascension of  20 bright and colorful hot air balloons, in North Georgia's Alpine Village - Helen.   Race competitors and local flyers will take to the sky at 7:00 am, Thursday, May 31, 2018.  If the weather conditions are too windy or storms are forecast, the take off will be postponed until conditions are acceptable.

The people of Helen believe that Helen, Georgia is the center of their world and in Columbus' day the Atlantic Ocean was the "edge of the Earth".  Thus, Pete Hodkinson came up with the concept for the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  The race begins in Helen and the finish line is I-95 (anywhere between Maine and Miami).  The shortest distance is 225 miles and the race usually takes two days.  It has been done in one day, while some races have taken as many as four days. Several balloons will be competing in the cross country race.

It is a race where both the pilot's and crew's skills are challenged.  A balloon can only go the same speed and direction as the wind.  The pilot must find the altitude which gives him/her the best speed as well as direction towards the finish line.  The race becomes a crew event as well, since the balloons are limited to 40 gallons of fuel (propane).  Forty gallons is approximately enough fuel to last 4 hours, so the balloons have to land for refueling.  If the crew is not there immediately with fresh tanks, valuable time is lost while the pilot and crew try to find each other.

The winner is the first person to cross I-95, or whoever is ahead at sunset on Friday, June 1, 2018.

While the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonist compete in local events beginning Thursday evening around 6:00 pm.  Local flying events will take place also on Friday and Saturday.  The balloons will fly around 7:30 am and 6:00 pm each day (weather permitting).    The balloons will only fly for around 1 to 2 hours.  There will be many opportunities available to the public;  assisting with the inflations, being a part of a chase crew or taking a tethered ride in a balloon.  There will be approximately 20 balloons flying locally.

There will be NO ballooning activities during the middle of the day.   

Helen offers many sights and attractions to keep one busy when the balloons are not flying.

Some balloons may tether instead of flying at flight times because of wind direction and weather conditions.  The main time tethered rides will be made available to the public will be on Saturday evening,beginning around 7:30 pm.  The balloons will be tied to the ground and go up approximately  50 - 75 feet.    Tethered rides last approximately 5 minutes and cost $10 per person.

Ballooning in Helen is challenging because the Alpine Village is surrounded by Mountains, National Forest and State Parks.  However it is worth the added effort when you can look down just above the tree tops at the mountains, the vast woodlands, the streams and the waterfalls.  You might even catch a glimpse of a group of deer or watch a falcon or eagle snare its dinner.


May 31         7:00 am    lift-off for Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Mass Ascension 
                   6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 1       7:00 am    local balloon event 
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 2        7:00 am    local balloon event 
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event 
                  7:30 pm    tethered balloon rides for public (appx 5 min flight)