Helen to the Atlantic
                      Balloon Race & Festival 
"From the Center of the world to the edge of the Earth"            Pete Hodkinson, 1974 
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39th Annual  Helen to the Atlantic
Balloon Race & Festival
  May 31, June 1 & 2 ,   2012

*************NEWS FLASH************
Congratulations to this year's race winner Daryl Tatum from Cumming, GA.  He just barely beat out last year's winner Steve Stokoe (Tampa, FL) by less than 1/2 mile.  3rd place goes to DJ Stukas (Central, SC).

Thank you to all the pilots and crews for your hard work and making this year's event a big success

click here for a Map of the landing sites and distances to the finish line

Mark your calendar for next year's race.  It will be May 30, 31 & June 1, 2013

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  30 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, May 31, 2012.  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.  Six to ten 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 1, 2012.

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,  taking a tethered ride in a balloon or a champagne flight over the mountains.  There will be approximately 20 - 25 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.

Although some balloons may tether instead of flying at flight times, 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.

Champagne balloon flights may be scheduled by calling  HEAD Balloons  at 706-865-3874 prior to the race.  During the actual days of the event May 31st thru June 2nd, please call Race Headquarters at 706-878-2271 to schedule a balloon flight.  The flights will last approximately 1 hour and cost $300 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 Common Sense Conservation.  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.  Common Sense Conservation has sponsored Earl flying his balloon all around the world from the North Pole to the Great Wall of China.  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.



May 31         7:00 am    lift-off for Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Mass Ascension
                   6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 1        7:00 am    local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 2        7:00 am    local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event
                  7:30 pm    tethered balloon rides for public


Balloon events will take place in various fields near the middle of Helen.  This year the balloons will be launching from various fields and open areas all over the Helen area.  New construction has greatly reduced the size of our old launch field.  Some balloons will still be launching in what is left of the field that the balloons have been launching in for years (just off of GA 75 in town, behind  the Huddle House).  Other locations the balloons may use are:  the field across GA 75 from Circle K; the field next to Days Inn; the Helen City Park; the field next to Water Park;  and various other open areas around town..  Check with Race Headquarters (706-878-2271) to confirm that the balloons are flying and where they are flying.

* Our special thanks go out to 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. 

** Congratulations to 2011 winner - Steve Stokoe**

**2010 Race Results - click here**

** 2009 Race Results and Photos

**2008 Race Results and Photos - click here**

**2005 Race Results and Photos - click here**

** 2004 Race Results and Photos - click here **

** 2003 Race Results and Photos - click here**

**2002 Race Results and Photos - 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.

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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 2012 - HABR


Click here to see Désirée and Tarp's webpage