Experience the magic of hot air balloons at this Arkansas festival
On the second weekend of September, the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship takes flight at the Anstaff Football Complex in Harrison. Now in its 27th year, the 2022 edition of this festival will take place from Friday September 9th to Sunday September 11th.
Fun for the whole family
As a family-friendly event, the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship kicks off Friday night with helicopter rides provided by Arkansas Helicopters and a Boy Scouts children’s area; both offers will also be repeated on Saturday. Wally West will perform his music live on Friday nights only.
A range of food and retail vendors will be on site throughout the weekend.
A colorful spectacle
The first day of the event will conclude with the first of two balloon glows, during which participating flight crews will inflate their themed hot air balloons but hold them in position to stay on the ground. The end result creates a colorful nightscape, reflecting an array of glowing lanterns.
Then, on Saturday morning, the event starts to get competitive. There is a key handover contest between the hot air balloons, with participating crews eligible to win a cash prize. The competition will involve balloon pilots maneuvering their hot air balloons towards a key that sits atop a pole. Then, to complete the task, the crews must remove the key from its respective post. The key handover contest also continues on Sunday morning.
Saturday’s schedule will also include on-field activities. A fun 5k adult run and a fun 2k kids run will benefit Grandma’s House, a children’s advocacy center in Harrison. Saturday’s schedule will also include A Kite RACE, a display of Harrison Fire and Police Department vehicles. 7 South, a country and southern rock band from Arkansas, will perform that night.
let’s go for a ride
Visitors to the Arkansas State Balloon Championship may have the opportunity to take a tethered balloon ride on Sunday evening, September 11. The rides are made possible through the purchase of a ticket.
Those wishing to view the hot air balloons on weekends are recommended to visit the First Baptist Church at 1400 South Pine St. Spectators should come exactly between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings to enjoy views at Breathtaking. For more information on the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship, visit their website or Facebook page.
What else to do in Harrison
Located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, the town of Harrison, Arkansas has other outdoor attractions in the area that are also worth checking out. Add them to your plans before or after the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship.
Located seven miles from Harrison, Mystic Caverns offers knowledgeable guided tours through two of the most fascinating caves in the Ozarks – Mystic Cavern and Crystal Dome. Mystic Cavern is adorned with royal columns, spherical stalactites, electrified helictites and a 28-foot pipe organ. Next, the eight-story Crystal Dome glistens from top to bottom, with an abundance of pure white casting stone and pools with cave pearls.
The Buffalo National River gives visitors another perspective, as National Geographic included it in its 2011 article titled “Top 10 Unappreciated National Parks.” It has three designated wilderness areas and three visitor contact stations. Considered the primary of the three, the Tyler Bend Visitor Center is located in St. Joe, Ark. It lies 18 miles south of Harrison.
The Baker Prairie is a natural area teeming with various unique species of plants such as Ozark trillium and early goldenrod. The fauna that inhabits it is common to the region, ranging from the ornate box turtle to the willow flycatcher. Additionally, Baker Prairie has two mowed loop trails that can be hiked.
The area in which Harrison is based is also popular for motorcycling; a free guide can be requested here. When it comes to accommodations in and around Harrison, there are a number of chain hotels and RV and campground options.
Boone County Regional Airport in Harrison was previously the location of the Arkansas State Balloon Championship. Southern Airways Express is the main carrier at the airport, with flights to destinations including Dallas/Fort Worth and Nashville.
- Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship Location: Anstaff Football Complex, 202 Old Stonewall Rd., Harrison, Ark.
- Hours: 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, September 9; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 10; and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sunday, September 11.