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“From the center of the world to the edge of the Earth”

36th Annual Helen to the Atlantic hot air balloon race

Jun 02, 2009

This race, the only long distance hot air balloon race in the world, begins in Helen, Georgia. The finish line is I-95--anywhere between Maine and Miami. If no one has crossed I-95 by 8:40 PM June 5th, the balloon closest is declared the winner.

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. Six to eight balloons enter the cross-country race. Prevailing winds of the area usually take the balloons southeast of Helen across South Carolina, however, contestants have finished in North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.

The long distance race to the Atlantic begins - weather permitting - at 7:00 AM Thursday, June 4th, 2009. If it is too windy or storms are forecast, take-off will be postponed until conditions are acceptable for flight. While the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonists compete in local events beginning Thursday, continuing Friday and Saturday with approximate flight times of 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Many experiences are available to the public such as assisting with balloon inflations and being part of a chase crew or taking tethered rides.

Ballooning in Helen is especially challenging because the North Georgia Alpine Village is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest and by Georgia State Parks. However, it is well worth the added effort when you can look down from just above the tree tops at the vast woodlands, streams and waterfalls, perhaps catch a glimpse of deer, or watch a peregrine falcon snare his dinner in flight.

36th Annual Helen to the Atlantic hot air balloon race
Source: eTN

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