Helen to the AtlanticBalloon Race & Festival 
    "From the Center of the world to the edge of the Earth"            Pete Hodkinson, 1974 
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44th Annual  Helen to the Atlantic
Balloon Race & Festival
  June 1, 2 & 3,   2017

   click here for a map to the new launch field

The South's oldest balloon event and the United States' only long distance hot air balloon race will begin (weather permitting) with a mass ascension of  20 bright and colorful hot air balloons, in North Georgia's Alpine Village - Helen.   Race competitors and local flyers will take to the sky at 7:00 am, Thursday, June 1, 2017.  If the weather conditions are too windy or storms are forecast, the take off will be postponed until conditions are acceptable.

The people of Helen believe that Helen, Georgia is the center of their world and in Columbus' day the Atlantic Ocean was the "edge of the Earth".  Thus, Pete Hodkinson came up with the concept for the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  The race begins in Helen and the finish line is I-95 (anywhere between Maine and Miami).  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. Several balloons will be competing in the cross country race.

It is a race where both the pilot's and crew's skills are challenged.  A balloon can only go the same speed and direction as the wind.  The pilot must find the altitude which gives him/her the best speed as well as direction towards the finish line.  The race becomes a crew event as well, since the balloons are limited to 40 gallons of fuel (propane).  Forty gallons is approximately enough fuel to last 4 hours, so the balloons have to land for refueling.  If the crew is not there immediately with fresh tanks, valuable time is lost while the pilot and crew try to find each other.

The winner is the first person to cross I-95, or whoever is ahead at sunset on Friday, June 2, 2017.

While the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonist compete in local events beginning Thursday evening around 6:00 pm.  Local flying events will take place also on Friday and Saturday.  The balloons will fly around 7:30 am and 6:00 pm each day (weather permitting).    The balloons will only fly for around 1 to 2 hours.  There will be many opportunities available to the public;  assisting with the inflations, being a part of a chase crew or taking a tethered ride in a balloon.  There will be approximately 20 balloons flying locally.

There will be NO ballooning activities during the middle of the day.  

Helen offers many sights and attractions to keep one busy when the balloons are not flying.

Some balloons may tether instead of flying at flight times because of wind direction and weather conditions.  The main time tethered rides will be made available to the public will be on Saturday evening, beginning around 7:30 pm.  The balloons will be tied to the ground and go up approximately  50 - 75 feet.    Tethered rides last approximately 10 minutes and cost $10 per person.

Ballooning in Helen is challenging because the Alpine Village is surrounded by Mountains, National Forest and State Parks.  However it is worth the added effort when you can look down just above the tree tops at the mountains, the vast woodlands, the streams and the waterfalls.  You might even catch a glimpse of a group of deer or watch a falcon or eagle snare its dinner.

The Helendorf River Inn (706-878-2271) is the host and headquarters as it has been since 1974, as well as a major sponsor and organizer of the balloon race.  Barbara Gay has been organizing and sponsoring the race, as well as graciously hosting the pilots for many years.  Nowadays, Catherine Gay Cleiman is the event organizer.  Catherine, along with Barbara and the staff of the Helendorf, bring a great balloon event together for the city of Helen.   In 2003, the Gay family (Dick, Barbara & Catherine) were all recognized by the Ballooning Federation of America for their contribution to the sport of ballooning in the United States.

While staying at the Helendorf the pilots, their families and crews stay busy with hot dog roasts on the patio by the river, tubing down the river, hikes to waterfalls, picnics, buggy rides, an afternoon at the amusement park, a round of golf, gold panning, visits to museums or shopping.  Alpine Helen offers much for guests to enjoy.

Another major sponsor of the event is the Wild Bunch International Balloon Team.  It was founded by race winner and annual participant Earl Miller.  Earl achieved his goal of winning in 1995, after many years of placing 2nd and 3rd in the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  As the chief pilot/owner of the Wild Bunch International Balloon Team, Earl has flown his balloons all around the world from the North Pole, to the Great Wall of China, to flights over the Alps.  He also flies gas balloons.  Earl represented the United States in the 2001 Gordon Bennett Race.

Our Balloonmeister is Tarp Head.  He participated in the event the since the first year in 1974.  He won the race to the Atlantic in 1979.   His interest in the balloon race led to his vocation.  He started  HEAD Balloons, Inc., one of five FAA approved balloon manufactures in the United States.



June 1         7:00 am    lift-off for Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Mass Ascension
                   6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 2       7:00 am    local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 3        7:00 am    local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event
                  7:30 pm    tethered balloon rides for public


The new launch field will be utilized again this year.  It is located across the river from Cool River Tubing & the city’s River Park on the Wilkin’s family property.   To enter the field, go across the bridge at Cool River Tubing and turn left.    While the majority of balloons will use the new launch field, a few balloons my also launch in various places around town.  Please check with Balloon Race Headquarters at the Helendorf Inn to confirm that the balloons are flying and get more information about where they will be located. For more information call the Balloon Race Headquarters at 706-878-2271.

   click here for a map to the new launch field

* Our special thanks go out to the Wilkins family as well as all of the local land owners who graciously allow the balloonist to take off and land on their property.

For a  Map and Driving Directions  to Helen click here.

Check with Race Headquarters for updates on who is winning the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  Race updates may be posted here during the event, however they may not be as current as you will get by calling the Race Headquarters.

For more information on the event contact Race Headquarters at 706-878-2271 or email us at mail@helenballoon.com


Click here to see photos of some of this year's participants. 

**2016 Race Results** - winner David Harwell

**2015 Race Results**  winner Daryl Tatum

**2014 Race Results - click here**

  2013 - No winner -  the wind never blew towards the coast

**2012 Race Results - click here**

** Congratulations to 2011 winner - Steve Stokoe**

**2010 Race Results - click here**

** 2009 Race Results and Photos

**2008 Race Results  - click here**

**2005 Race Results  - click here**

** 2004 Race Results  - click here **

** 2003 Race Results  - click here**

**2002 Race Results s - click here**
Race Headquarters, sponsor and organizer of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival  706-878-2271
Local Manufacturer of FAA Approved Hot Air Balloons
Co-Sponsor of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  For more information send email to:  wldbnchint@aol.com  
Official home page of Alpine Helen, Georgia
Official tubing company of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival
Official beer of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival.   
Northeast Sales Distributing - Athens, Georgia 
 The Helen Story  the history of Helen's transformation - The Helen Story  
and images of the past

 Click here to see Helen's 1st balloon ascension
Local "CANDY MAN" and balloon enthusiast David Jones new book.  Click here to buy one, or better yet stop by Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen while you are in Helen and pick up a signed copy along with your fudge.
VISIT NORTHEAST GEORGIA . com www.visitnortheastgeorgia.com  has a lot of information about the Northeast Georgia Mountains
www.n-georgia.com www.n-georgia.com is another great resource for information on Northeast Georgia
roadsidegeorgia.com Great website!  A good history of Helen and has much information on all of Northeast Georgia.

eBay sniper Ebay's Ezsniper - try it out for your next bid
Join us on Face Book

Hot air balloons inflated ready for lift off.


 For more information on the event contact Race Headquarters at 706-878-2271 or email us at mail@helenballoon.com
  Hot Air Ballooning 


copyright 2017 - HABR



Click here to see Désirée and Tarp's webpage