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Frequently Asked Questions

When and where is the 2024 National Balloon Classic?

The 2024 National Balloon Classic: July 26 – August 3 (Evening flight only on Friday, July 26). The 9-day event is located at the Memorial Balloon Field in Indianola, Iowa.

When do the balloons launch?

Morning Flights: competition flights only, gates open at 6:00 AM
Beginning Saturday, July 27, gates are open from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. for guests to enjoy watching the competition flights (weather permitting). Weather reports and pilot briefings are held 30 minutes prior to flights. Flight announcements are not made until after the pilot briefing. Parking and viewing are “at own risk” only, (no parking/gate attendant). All National Balloon Classic policies are in force. no pets, smoking/vaping, or outside food or beverages. Select vendors are open for food, coffee, and other beverage purchases. Chair rental is available. Admission and parking are free-will donations for mornings only.

Evening Flights: gates open at 4:00 PM
Weather permitting, hot air balloons are scheduled to launch each evening at 6:30 p.m. Weather reports and pilot briefings are held 30 minutes prior to flights. Flight announcements are not made until after the pilot briefing.

How do Pilots compete?

The National Balloon Classic is considered one of the country’s most competitive hot-air ballooning events. Pilots compete for points, cash, and championship titles. All flights are competitive; however, evening tasks are more entertaining and guest-oriented (i.e., Tip Over the Outhouse). In the mornings, pilots have their serious game faces on. They compete by dropping specially weighted baggies onto targets that are placed in designated locations, including the Memorial Balloon Field. Some morning tasks may comprise several targets, which takes great precision and skill to determine wind directions and flight patterns to “hit” each one successfully. The morning scores are calculated using a nationally recognized system. Each pilot receives between zero and one thousand points per target, and their morning scores are combined for the entire week. The pilot with the highest point total at the end of the week receives the highly coveted National Balloon Classic Champion title.

How do I get to the National Balloon Classic?

The National Balloon Classic is held at the National Balloon Classic Memorial Balloon Field, which is located east of Indianola on Hwy 92. From the intersection of Hwy 69 and Hwy 92, go east two miles and follow balloon traffic signs. The best way to avoid heavy traffic is to take a route that includes arriving on Hwy 92 from the East.

Where is the parking located?

General admission parking is included with your ticket purchase. Once parked, there are no “in and out” privileges. The General Admission parking lot, including handicapped parking, is located directly south of the Memorial Balloon Field on 150th Avenue, north of Highway 92. Follow Balloon Traffic signs. Upon arrival, a volunteer Rotarian will assist you with where to park. Be sure to have your ticket(s) ready to show. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR TICKET IN THE CAR. Tickets will be scanned at the main entrance.

Is there a park-and-ride option?

At this time, alternate transportation to the Memorial Balloon Field is unavailable; however, there is ample, on-site parking, and the earlier you arrive, the earlier you avoid traffic and parking delays.

How early should I arrive at the balloon field?

For evening flights, arriving as early as possible is highly advisable. On weekends and for special events (i.e., Nite Glows and fireworks), plan to arrive early to avoid traffic delays.

How do I know if the balloons will fly?

WEATHER or not the balloons will launch/fly?
All events at the National Balloon Classic are dependent on prevailing weather conditions and subject to delays or cancellations. Surface winds and winds aloft can vary greatly; maximum safe surface wind speeds are 8-10 mph. Although every effort is made for a successful balloon flight, the safety of our pilots, volunteers, and spectators is our priority. If extreme weather conditions exist, notices will be posted via social media and our website. Decisions about balloon flights are made during the Pilot and Weather Briefing at 6:00 pm each evening. If changes to the schedule are necessary, they will be announced over our tower (at the balloon field) and on social media. In ballooning, last-minute decisions are the norm because the weather can quickly change and be indecisive. Taking a “wait and see” approach may result in arriving too late and missing a beautiful night of balloon gazing.

Can I get a refund if the event is canceled?

The National Balloon Classic is an outdoor event: no refunds, rain checks, or exchanges. If hot air balloons are unable to fly due to wind conditions, live music, and other scheduled entertainment, (weather permitting) will still go on. All events at the National Balloon Classic are dependent on prevailing weather conditions and subject to weather delays or cancellations. Times are approximate, and the schedule may change without notice. The safety of our pilots, volunteers, and spectators is our primary concern. Unused tickets are not refundable.

The National Balloon Classic is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to bring a nationally recognized and celebrated family-friendly event to Iowa that promotes community engagement, tourism, and the sport of hot air ballooning. By purchasing a ticket, you help preserve the 52-year history of hot air ballooning in Indianola and support state and local economies.

What can I bring to the balloon field?

  • Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Chairs are not provided, but a limited number of chairs are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis. The balloon field is an open, manicured grassy field that provides perfect views from all areas. The balloon field is an ideal space to unplug and unwind.

  • Backpacks/bags (1 per person) are allowed but ALL bags are subject to inspection.

What items are not allowed at the balloon field?

  • No weapons of any kind, including knives over 4” blade length.
  • No drones, laser pointers, fireworks, lighters, or flames of any kind.
  • No animals, with the exception of a service animal.
  • No tents or large umbrellas that obstruct views.
  • No outside food/drink, or coolers.
  • No solicitation; no religious or political paraphernalia.
  • No Campers, or ATVs. RV parking is allowed in designated lots only during event hours, no overnights.

Are pets allowed at the balloon field?

The only animals allowed are ADA service animals that are specially trained for a specific job or task. Any other animal that does not qualify as a service animal under the ADA is not allowed on the Memorial Balloon Field grounds. Emotional support animals are not classified as service animals. Neither the ADA nor Iowa’s disability law covers emotional support animals.

Is smoking or vaping allowed at the balloon field?

Absolutely no smoking or vaping is allowed at the balloon field. No smoking includes electronic cigarettes.

Can I bring my own food and beverages?

There is a large variety of food and beverage vendors at the balloon field, including a beer and wine tent. No outside food, beverages, or coolers are allowed. Bags and backpacks are subject to inspection.

Where are the ATM machines located?

ATMs are located inside the gates on both the east and west ends of the balloon field and in SpectatorParking across from the main entrance. Credit and debit cards may be used at most concessionaires, at the Merch Tent, and in the gift shop.

Can I bring a tour group?

The National Balloon Classic provides unique and affordable experiences for tour groups. For group rates, including information on how to purchase balloon rides, please contact office@nationalballoonclassic.com.

How do hot air balloons compete?

A hot air balloon “race” is based on flying accuracy and skill rather than speed. Pilots compete in several different tasks every morning and evening; however, the morning competition is for points, which determine the overall National Balloon Classic Champion, the North Central Regional Championship, and the State Championship.

What are special events and entertainment?

A General Admission ticket to the National Balloon Classic provides outstanding entertainment value. Your general admission ticket not only includes parking but also live music on the TruBank stage each night, and special events on select dates.

What is there to do during the day?

Hot air balloons do not fly during the day’s heat; therefore, after the morning competition, the balloon field gates remain locked until 4:00 p.m. This is the perfect time to explore our vibrant community. Trails, shopping, dining, breweries, and wineries; Indianola and Warren County have much to offer! Check out some of the great things to see and do at Experience Indianola and Wander Warren County.

How can I volunteer?

The National Balloon Classic, a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization, relies on hundreds of volunteers to make the 9-day event successful. Volunteers help in all areas, including balloon chase crews, Public Information, gate hosting, ticket taking, hospitality, and VIP areas. Must be 16 years or older or accompanied by an adult. If you would like to volunteer, please contact our office at (515) 961-8415 or click here.

Can I take photos of the balloons?

Hot air balloons are one of the most photographed sports, and we encourage you to capture as many jaw-dropping moments as possible. Please note: By entering the National Balloon Classic property, you are entering an area where you may be recorded or photographed for commercial purposes. Photos and videos may appear on the National Balloon Classic website, social media pages, or other media for marketing and promotional use. By your presence on the property, you agree to be photographed and/or recorded, and you are also granting the National Balloon Classic, its sponsors, attending media, affiliates, agents, and designees irrevocable permission to use your likeness, performance, mannerisms, and voice – and those of any minor accompanying you – without compensation, credit, or notice in commercials, advertising, and other materials in any and all media worldwide in perpetuity. Media credentials will be provided to qualified media only. Visit our media page.

Still have questions?

Drop us a line on our contact page, and we will respond as soon as possible.

The National Balloon Classic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Thank you for supporting this cherished event!
For information on how to donate, contact office@nationalballoonclassic.com