It was a little early for most on a Sunday, but a few gathered to watch as about twenty hot air balloons landed at the airport in bowling green at sunrise. The balloon pilots were finishing their competition for the weekend with $10,000 on the line.
"Last year and this year, we had the number one and number two competitive balloonists in the world, ranked as high as you could go. These guys were out here, they're brothers, so they've been flying. This is really one of the most well kept secrets here in Bowling Green, is the level of competitiveness we have out here," said United Way of Southern Kentucky President and CEO Steve Wallace.
This year's balloon meister says flying a hot air balloon competitively is a science, much like air sailing with targets.
"The entire hot air balloon flight from the start to the end is a big scientific experiment. It really is. They basically navigate through the air from the ground to about 4,000 ft. They choose wind directions they believe takes them to their destination the quickest and most efficient and closest to the center of the target," said Balloon Tunes and BBQ Balloon Meister Scott McClintock.
More than twenty balloons competed.
"Going into this morning, I'll take an opportunity to brag, my son was leading and he was flying for United Way and Live United," said McClintock
Matthew McClintock wasn't the only one who came out of this weekend feeling like a winner.
"We had record attendance and record money this year over last year when we had maybe about 20,000 people show up throughout the festival. We had about the same number of people this year. The difference was last year, we raised about $95... $97,000. This year we raised well over $200,000," said Wallace.
All of which Wallace says will go to help the organizations the united way helps fund. Wallace says this year's event had a one price admission rather than attendees paying for rides like previous years, which he thinks helped raise almost $225,000.