Cluster balloon “pilot” John Ninomiya will inflate and assemble a giant cluster of helium balloons at the Balloon Race infield, then at around 6:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, he will strap on a harness attached to the balloons and let them carry him away.
Ninomiya, who has almost 20 years experience as a hot-air balloonist, decided eight years ago to fulfill a childhood dream by learning to fly with just a cluster of helium balloons. Since that time, he’s made over 40 helium cluster flights. He calls all of those flights a magical flying experience.
With only a half dozen cluster pilots worldwide, cluster ballooning remains something between an extreme sport and a personal eccentricity. But with the overwhelming popularity of the Disney motion picture Up, the notion of cluster ballooning is on every kid’s mind.
“This promises to be one of the most unique and exciting attractions ever to come to The Great Texas Balloon Race,” said Bill Bussey, hot air balloon pilot and Race founder. “I think just about every kid, at one time or another, has held a helium balloon and wondered what it would be like to ride that balloon into the air. This will be an attraction that the whole family will be talking about.”
The Great Texas Balloon Race is July 31-Aug. 1, at the East Texas Regional Airport at Longview. Advance Tickets are $12 per day and are available at area Super 1 Foods beginning. Tickets are available at the gate for $15 per day. Children under 12 are admitted for free, as well as active military members with ID.