In 1994 the Abilene Unlimited Optimist Club started the Big Country Balloon Fest as our annual fundraiser. We use these funds to help children in the Big Country in several different ways. Every year it gets bigger and better. It is held at Redbud Park the last weekend in September each year. The first year there was a grand total of 9 balloons. Our Balloonmeister was a local pilot, Johnny Lewis, who volunteered many hours to help get us started. Mr. Lewis is a commercial pilot who has taken his knowledge of ballooning to the highest levels. He built his first hot-air balloon as a child and has since been featured on television shows and movies in the USA and internationally. He is well respected in the ballooning community for his knowledge of the sport. From the third year to present, Glen Moyer has been the Balloonmeister for the event. Mr. Moyer helped organize the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta many years ago. When approached about helping with our event, he gladly volunteered, as he is an avid supporter for children's programs as well. His is the editor of the Balloon Federation of America publications, including the Ballooning Magazine and the Skylines FBA publication for hot-air balloon pilots. He reduces his fee considerably to help us with our fund-raiser and we are very fortunate to have such a prestigious figure at the helm of our event. Many pilots attend our fest on their way to the Albuquerque Fiesta the following weekend. We have had several special shape balloons in the past including "Let's Quack", "Blue Azul", "Energizer Hot Hair Balloon" (the world's largest hot air balloon), "Humpty Dumpty". "Noah's Art" and more. In 2006 we incorporated a kite show with the Austin End of the Line Kite Team. This has been an exciting addition to our festival. The event has evolved over the years to much more than just the hot-air balloon show. There is a children's area where games are set up, local entertainment and bands brought in, air castles, a silent auction, arts and crafts, and lots and lots of food! There is a balloon "glow" Friday and Saturday night. If you've never seen one, you won't want to miss it. The night is lit up with all the colors of the hot-air balloons! There is no admission fee (although donations are appreciated) so families can come out for a fun-filled night of entertainment. The event attracts over 25,000 people according to the Abilene Police Department.
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