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Enjoy the 2021 Great Reno Balloon Race

Big Event for Free Family Fun

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The 2021 Great Reno Balloon Race will be from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 12. Come to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park to marvel at the world's largest free hot air balloon event.

It's free to attend the Great Reno Balloon Race, an event for the whole family. You do have to get up early, though, since hot air ballooning is an early morning sport and some activities start well before the sun comes up.

Great Reno Balloon Race, Nevada, NV
Mass ascension of hot air balloons at the Great Reno Balloon Race. Photo © Stan White

Balloons at the Great Reno Balloon Race

Around 100 hot air balloons participate in the Great Reno Balloon Race. Most of us just enjoy the spectacle as the balloons rise into the sky each morning during the early morning mass ascension. For balloon pilots and crews, there really are balloon flying competitions with cash prizes.

Specialty balloons in a variety of shapes punctuate the dozens of traditional hot air balloons floating over Reno. Specialty balloons scheduled to appear in 2021 include Smokey Bear, Billy the Kid, Kermie, Keystone Willy, Humpty Dumpty, Allycorn, Rocket Racoon and Con-Air.

Great Reno Balloon Race, Nevada, NV
Pre-dawn Glow Show and the big Darth Vader balloon at the Great Reno Balloon Race. Photos © Stan White

Main Events at the Great Reno Balloon Race

You have to get up before dawn to enjoy the most spectacular events like the Glow Show, Super Glow Show, and Dawn Patrol. The Super Glow Show on Friday only is an expanded, more spectacular version of this popular part of the event. The mass ascension of around 100 hot air balloons takes place as the sun comes up over the Virginia Range, which is still pretty early.

Balloon Boulevard of food, drink, and souvenir vendors operates during the morning activities, starting while it's still dark. Here is the schedule, but be sure to check the Great Reno Balloon Race official schedule of events for any last-minute changes.

Friday, September 10

  • 3:30 a.m.- Gates open to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park
  • 5:00 a.m. – Super Glow Show
  • 5:30 a.m. – Dawn Patrol
  • 6:45 a.m.- National Anthem – Nick Eng
  • 7:00 a.m. – Mass Ascension Launch
  • 9:30 a.m. – E.L. Cord Foundation Tissue Paper Balloon Launch
  • 4:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m – Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

Saturday, September 11

  • 3:30 a.m.- Gates open to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park
  • 5:00 a.m.- Glow Show
  • 5:30 a.m. – Dawn Patrol
  • 6:45 a.m. – 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony
  • 6:50 a.m. National Anthem – Sierra High Notes
  • 7:00 a.m.- Mass Ascension Launch
  • 4:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.- Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

Sunday, September 12

  • 3:30 a.m.- Gates open to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park
  • 5:00 a.m – Glow Show
  • 5:30 a.m. – Dawn Patrol sponsored by Donor Network West
  • 6:45 a.m. – Barron Hilton Remembrance Ceremony
  • 6:50 a.m. – National Anthem – High Desert Harmony Chorus
  • 7:00 a.m.- Mass Ascension Launch
  • 6:00-8:00 a.m.-Girl Scouts Scavenger Hunt/Sign Up to be a Girl Scout
  • 4:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.- Shopping along Balloon Boulevard

The RE/MAX balloon will be providing tethered rides for the general public after the Mass Ascension. Rides are available for a $5 donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Parking and Spectator Information for the Great Reno Balloon Race

Thousands of people converge on Rancho San Rafael Regional Park before dawn to enjoy the Great Reno Balloon Race. With so many people and cars moving about in the dark, it is imperative that you read and follow all "Parking and Transportation" information related to the event. The RTC RIDE park and ride program has pick-up points in Reno and Sparks so you can eliminate the parking hassle by riding the bus. Parking is prohibited along McCarran Boulevard due to safety hazards and parking laws will be enforced.

Be sure to read "Tips For Enjoying The Event" to learn rules and tips about how to have a safe and fun time at the Great Reno Balloon Race. Don't forget your camera to capture the colorful scenes on the ground and in the air. Do not bring dogs - pets are not allowed at Reno special events.

May Museum - Special Hours and Free Admission

The Wilbur D. May Museum is right in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park next to the event. It will be offering special hours and free admission during the Great Reno Balloon Race.

  • Friday, September 10: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 11: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 12: 7 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Source: Reno Balloon Race website and press releases.

Great Reno Balloon Race, Nevada, NV
Big crowds enjoy the mass ascension at the Great Reno Balloon Race in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. Photo © Stan White

Video © Stan White

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