California Balloon Invitational to be held Saturday, July 16

The California Balloon Invitational Festival, located at Windmill Ridge, will feature an entertainment stage sponsored by Lutz Barbecue and Mike Kehoe Ford and 30 food and craft vendors along with fun and games for children, and will run from 12-7 p.m. leading up to the hot air balloon race at 7 p.m.

The California Balloon Invitational Festival, located at Windmill Ridge, will feature an entertainment stage sponsored by Lutz Barbecue and Mike Kehoe Ford and 30 food and craft vendors along with fun and games for children, and will run from 12-7 p.m. leading up to the hot air balloon race at 7 p.m. Democrat Photo

The California Balloon Invitational will be held Saturday, July 16, at Windmill Ridge off of Buchanan Street east of California. Ernie Timbrook Jr., coordinator of the balloon race, said it will be a hare and hound race with the hare balloon being the balloon sponsored by the Missouri Lottery.

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The California Balloon Invitational Festival, located at Windmill Ridge, will feature an entertainment stage sponsored by Burgers' Smokehouse and Mike Kehoe Ford and 30 food and craft vendors along with fun and games for children, and will run from 12-7 p.m. leading up to the hot air balloon race at 7 p.m.

"The hare balloon will take off and the others will take off after it," Timbrook Jr. said. "The Missouri Lottery balloon will try and make it tricky on the other pilots and wherever he lands the other hare balloons try to land. He will put out a 15 x 15 foot X and the other balloons will have little baggies they have to throw on the X to see who wins."

The weekend will kickoff with a media flight the evening before the event where local media will get a chance to check out the balloons and take pictures from the sky. The event itself starts at 12 p.m. with an entertainment stage sponsored by Burgers' Smokehouse and Mike Kehoe Ford along with food and craft booths.

"We have a lot of local entertainment," Timbrook Jr. said, "we have a clogging group of Jessica Dunn and friends. Kirstyn Roush will be singing the National Anthem as well as other songs. We will have Cross Generation which is the Martensen family playing. A talented up and coming band, Bourbon Creek, will be there and open up for the balloon ceremonies. There will also be plenty of games for the children as well as 30 food and craft vendors who will be present."

The balloon festival will go from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at which time the race will start. After the race an awards dinner catered by Burgers' Smokehouse and Lutz Barbecue and the awards ceremony sponsored by Creative Awards, will take place at Centennial Hall at 9 p.m. Overall there have been over 40 sponsors for the event which has been amazing according to Timbrook Jr.

"It is pretty awesome," he said. "Most balloon races do not even have this many sponsors in a big town like Columbia who used to have races but never had as much support. Pretty much everyone I have asked has pitched in and helped with what I have needed. I work and crew for the Missouri Lottery and their balloon. I have been to a lot of races and seen things I liked and disliked and always wanted to put on a race myself. When I moved here two years ago I have seen a lot of community support around local events and so I decided if I found land to do it and sponsors for the propane and dinner I could put it on and I have had such great community support."

Timbrook Jr., said normally at races it is about the pilots competing, while this race will feature a side competition for the sponsors. They will compete while flying in the balloons and later will also receive awards at the banquet. Timbrook Jr., said his fascination with the races began while following around Gary and Jan Sines, chiropractors in the Jefferson City area, who his grandmother would go visit. The Signs competed and anytime they went he tried to go and help out. Now being able to crew himself and coordinate an event like the California Balloon Invitational, Timbrook Jr. hopes to spark an interest in the races for others in the area.

For more information about the event go to www.californiaballoons.weebly.com, email californiaballoons@yahoo.com or you can find the event on Facebook.

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