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Hot air balloons race to the ocean from Ga. mountains
Annual event launches today in Helen
0606balloon 1
Competitors inflate their balloons before last year’s Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival. This year’s event runs through the weekend, starting with the race today and balloon rides and other events through Saturday in Helen.

42nd annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race
& Festival

When: 7 a.m. liftoffs and 6:30 p.m. local activities June 4-6

Where: Helen

Cost: Free for sights; $10 for tethered rides; $300 for champagne rides

More info: 706-878-2271 or email

The Helen to the Atlantic Balloon race, the South’s oldest balloon event and the only long distance hot air race in the U.S., will take to the air this weekend in Helen.

Race competitors and local fliers will launch their balloons at 7 a.m. today, weather permitting. If conditions are too windy or storms are forecast, the takeoff will be postponed until conditions are favorable.

The race begins across the river from Cool River Tubing and the city’s River Park in Helen. The finish line is Interstate 95, anywhere between Maine and Miami. The shortest distance is 225 miles, meaning the race takes at least two days.

The winner is the first person to cross I-95, or whoever is ahead at sunset Friday, June 5.

While the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonist compete in local events today through Saturday in Helen. The balloons will fly around 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day as long as weather permits. Balloons will only fly for 1 to 2 hours.

The public will have chances to get up close and personal with balloonists and their crews. They may assist with the inflations, be part of a chase crew, take a tethered ride in a balloon or a champagne flight over the mountains.

The main time for tethered rides will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Balloons will be tied to the ground and go up 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 event, call 706-878-2271 to schedule a balloon flight. Flights will last approximately one hour and cost $300 per person.

No ballooning activities will occur during the middle of the day.

For more information, call the Balloon Race Headquarters at 706-878-2271, email, or visit

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