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Residents may float above North Georgia
Hot air balloon race to take flight today in Helen
Hot air balloon pilots heat up their balloons as they wait for weather conditions to improve for the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival last year.

Hot air balloons will grace the Northeast Georgia skyline as the South’s oldest balloon event will take off from Helen this week.

The United States’ only long distance hot air balloon race will begin with a mass ascension at 7 a.m. today as competitors and local fliers take to the sky. If the weather conditions are too windy or storms are forecast, the takeoff will be postponed until conditions are acceptable.

The 41st annual Helen Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race begins in Helen and the finish line is Interstate 95, anywhere between Maine and Miami. Six to 10 balloons will compete in the cross-country race.

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

While the competition to the Atlantic progresses, other balloonists compete in local events beginning at 6 p.m. today. Local flying events also will take place Friday and Saturday.

Balloons will fly around 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day with the weather permitting. Balloons will only fly for 1 to 2 hours.

Visitors to the annual event may assist with the inflations, be part of a chase crew or take a tethered ride in a balloon or a champagne flight over the mountains.

Most of the tethered ride times for the public will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The balloons will be tied to the ground and rise 50 to 75 feet and last approximately 10 minutes. It costs $10 per person.

Champagne balloon flights may be scheduled by calling HEAD Balloons at 706-865-3874 prior to the race.

To schedule a balloon flight, call 706-878-2271. Flights will last 1 hour and cost $300 per person.

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

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