If you live in Iowa and have never been to The National Balloon Classic in Indianola, Iowa you are really missing out. Even though our family has moved about an hour away from Indianola now, we still try and get to this event every summer. If you have never been there are certainly a few things that it is good to know – and I’ve come prepared with the details!
The National Balloon Classic is a festival of Hot Air Balloons held each summer in Iowa. At this event balloon pilots from around the nation come to compete in events that test their piloting skills, show off their balloons to the public, and simply enjoy flights across beautiful open scenery. At the balloon grounds you will find bands performing on a concert stage, a children’s activity area with staff inflatables (extra cost but not overly expensive), and food vendors to entertain you while you wait for various balloon related events! During the course of the event balloons do launches from the balloon field, landings at the balloon field, night glows of balloons, and other activities. Two nights of the festival also feature fireworks.
The National Balloon Classic is towards the end of July every year. The dates for 2018 are July 27th – August 4th. The best events are held early in the morning and then again in the evening! The morning events are free for all to come see if you are an early bird who wants an amazing experience and the evening events will cost you $5 per person at the gate for everyone over 6 years old.
Parking cost covers your admission to the event. The gates for parking open at 5:00 am for the morning flight and activities and then are opened again at 4:00 pm for the evening activities. There is plenty of parking but the line to get in can get LONG and SLOW..if you are going for the evening it is worth it to arrive as close to 4:00 pm as you can, although we have also gone around 5:00 pm and been able to get in with plenty of time to see the balloon activities.
The National Balloon Classic is held at the Memorial Balloon Field at 15335 Jewell St, Indianola, IA 50125.
Tips To Have The Best Time
Do Bring sunscreen, lawn chairs, a blanket, a ball for the kids to toss around, some extra cash for food vendors or kids inflatable activities. The balloon field is a large open space so bringing comfortable seating is a great idea. The festival has always had a limited number of plastic chairs available if you forget to bring your own.
Do Not Bring pets or outside food/drink. You will not be able to bring in coolers of food to the balloon field grounds. Even the calmest animals are often disturbed by the balloons size, sound, and colors therefore pets are not allowed at the National Balloon Classic.
Do Keep An Eye On The Weather!
Bad weather will cancel flights and bad balloon weather is not the same as bad weather other places. The reason that flights are done early in the morning and in the evening is because this is when both temperatures and wind speeds tend to be the best for flight. If wind speeds are much over 10 mph the balloons cannot safely fly. Balloon flights may be delayed or cancelled based on flying conditions beyond The Classic’s control. If you notice it is particularly windy on the day you are considering going, perhaps try for a calmer day!
Attend the Night Glow Extravaganza!
Several nights during the festival The National Balloon Classic has what is called Night Glow Extravaganza. This is where all of the balloons setup right at the field, inflate, and then light their fire torches to turn their balloons into giant glowing lanterns. This has been the highlight for us each year! Some years we are even able to walk among the balloons as they glow and meet pilots of different balloons.
Collect Balloon/Pilot Cards!
Many of the balloons have trading cards with pictures of the inflated balloon on them, information about the balloon, and sometimes information on the crew flying the balloon. You can get these by approaching the fence and talking to pilots throughout the evening and my daughters love their collection of balloon cards.
Consider Waking Early For The Dawn Patrol or Morning Competition Flights!
Admission to morning events at the field is free and the weather is usually cool and crowds low. Perhaps that has to do with the 6:30 am flight time for competition mornings and 5:15 am flight time for the dawn patrol. Still, I promise if you can roll out of bed, grab some donuts, and head to the field you will not be disappointed. The dawn patrol is a mass ascension meaning all of the balloons lift off together directly from the field and the morning competition flights bring the balloons to you as the pilots work to drop items into targets on the field directly in front of you.
Visit with Friends!
Some of our best visits have been going to the event with friends where we can stretch out on the grass and catch up while the kids run and play and then are awed by the balloons flying over head.
Ride In a Balloon!
Balloon rides are available during the National Balloon Classic for a price if pre-scheduled.
This event is one your family will always remember attending and is a highlight of our summer every year. For a full schedule of events or to get in touch with The National Balloon Classic directly you can visit their website or their Facebook Page. Their Facebook Page is a great source for up to the minute flight reports as well if you are unsure if balloons will be flying due to weather.
Have you been to The National Balloon Classic or another hot air balloon festival? What did you think of it?