Four photos taken at this year’s Great Forest Park Balloon Race and Glow will become more than vivid memories. The amateur photographers who take them will be rewarded.
They will receive a year of movie passes to Wehrenberg Theatres, where they can admire them on-screen as winners in a contest sponsored by the theater chain and the Suburban Journals.
With 70 hot air balloons inflated Friday evening for viewing against the evening sky, then launched Saturday after a party for thousands of families in Forest Park on Saturday, images likely will be bright in color and luminous in lighting. Balloons also are lit at 2 p.m. Saturday specifically for close-up views and pictures.
John Marlow, race president, said, “We have checked weather reports every year since they were recorded. The third Saturday in September consistently has the best weather in St. Louis. There are a lot of weddings that weekend, too, because they have heard about this.”
Having flown in almost all the 39 previous “hare and hound” events, he doesn’t think one spot is best to see the event or take photos.
“You can go anywhere for a great vantage. In the park at the race launch site is by far the best because you can see them in flight, see all the action,” he said. Whichever way they fly, it is a sight to behold.
The Energizer Bunny balloon — the “hare” — is 15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, and takes off first to set down an “X” for “hounds” to target. The hot air balloon that drops a bag of birdseed closest wins.
Weather determines the balloons’ course. Perfect weather for watching the race doesn’t preclude extraordinary behind-the-scenes precautions. Even the U.S. Coast Guard is alerted to the race date. Marlow estimates “perfect” wind conditions to be 6 to 7 knots (7 to 8 miles) per hour.
”You need enough wind to be able to cross the Mississippi River,” he said. “There is a plane of air like a glass wall down the river. On a light wind day, you need enough wind to get through that and not land you in New Orleans.” Having landed in water while reporting the race live in 1979 for KMOX-AM radio (1120), long-time media sponsor, Sue Mathias said she relives the event with mixed emotions every year when she hears about the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.
“Knee-deep in water, in the middle of the river, we were finally rescued by the Mid-America Transport towboat,” she said, remembering the positive outcome.
This year’s photo entrants may mail by Oct. 19 as many prints as desired. Name, address and contact information with age of the person who took them must be on the back of each. Photos are judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit.