Nat'l Hot Air Balloon Championship to join Old West Balloon Fest 2019-2021

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GERING, Neb. (KNEP) - The Balloon Federation of America announced today the award for the 2019-2020-2021 U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship to Gering-Scottsbluff-Mitchell and Western Nebraska.

“Following an extensive, two-month written bid proposal process and a finalist cities site visit the first week of December, Old West Balloon Fest Board of Directors and the communities of Gering, Scottsbluff, Mitchell and Western Nebraska were awarded the three-year contract to host the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship (Nationals) for 2019, 2020 and 2021”, according to Colleen Johnson, Old West Balloon Fest Executive Director.

The Nationals is an annual weeklong event that brings together top balloon competitors from across the United States as they vie for the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the biennial World Hot Air Balloon Championship. The BFA, as the National Aeronautical Association US representative, is the officially recognized sanctioned body authorized to organize National Championships for the purpose of selecting representatives to attend the international competition.

“For spectators, visitors and balloon enthusiasts in the Gering-Scottsbluff-Mitchell area, the BFA U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship will mean more balloons flying overhead in our Western Nebraska skies. A total of 50 or more balloons will color the summer skies above the area for an entire week competing for the title of US National Champion and the right to represent the United States in the next World Championship”, according to Hunter Kosman, President of Old West Balloon Fest.

“Hosting the Championships is a partnership between the BFA, Old West Balloon Fest and our cities, county, destination marketing organizations and business communities”, stated Karla Niedan-Streeks, Director of the Gering Visitors Bureau. “The BFA brings a package of world-class competitive entertainment proven to be an attractive community celebration and tourism package estimated at $1.2 million in economic impact for the area”, according to Niedan-Streeks.

“In making the bid award announcement, Maury Sullivan, current US Nationals Championship Director and BFA/Hot Air Competition Division Board member, stated the area’s favorable and prevailing weather conditions, the flying area, proposed budget, an established-successful Balloon Event organization and the demonstration of city, county, tourism, volunteer and business community support contributed to the selection of our area for the bid award”, according to Johnson.

Championships have been previously hosted by Kalamazoo and Battle Creek-MI, Reno-NV, Des Moines and Indianola-IA, Baton Rouge-LA, Middletown-OH, Columbia-MO, Rantoul-IL, Anderson-SC, Waco and Longview-TX and most recently in Shreveport-LA in 2016-2017-2018.

Preparations for hosting the US Nationals begins immediately by the Old West Balloon Fest Board of Directors and US National Organizing Committee; first priority is securing sponsorships and business/individual participation from around the region for everyone to part of this national hot air ballooning event.

Dates for the 2018 Old West Balloon Fest celebration have been moved to coincide with the dates for the U.S. National Competitions to be held in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The dates for Old West Balloon Fest and Nationals for the next four years are as follows:
August 17-19, 2018 – Old West Balloon Fest 2018
August 13-18, 2019 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2019
August 11-16, 2020 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2020
August 10-15 2021 – Nationals and Old West Balloon Fest 2021