51st Annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival 
    "From the Center of the world to the edge of the Earth"            Pete Hodkinson, 1974     

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51st Annual  Helen to the Atlantic
Balloon Race & Festival
May 30, 31 and June 1,  2024


The South's oldest balloon event and the United States' only long distance hot air balloon race will begin (weather permitting) with a mass ascension of  around 25 bright and colorful hot air balloons, in North Georgia's Alpine Village - Helen.   Race competitors and local flyers will take to the sky at 7:00 am, Thursday, May 30, 2024.  If the weather conditions are too windy or storms are forecast, the take off will be postponed until conditions are acceptable.

The people of Helen believe that Helen, Georgia is the center of their world and in Columbus' day the Atlantic Ocean was the "edge of the Earth".  Thus, Pete Hodkinson came up with the concept for the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race.  The race begins in Helen and the finish line is I-95 (anywhere between Maine and Miami).  The shortest distance is 225 miles and the race usually takes two days.  It has been done in one day, while some races have taken as many as four days. Several balloons will be competing in the cross country race.

It is a race where both the pilot's and crew's skills are challenged.  A balloon can only go the same speed and direction as the wind.  The pilot must find the altitude which gives him/her the best speed as well as direction towards the finish line.  The race becomes a crew event as well, since the balloons are limited to 40 gallons of fuel (propane).  Forty gallons is approximately enough fuel to last 4 hours, so the balloons have to land for refueling.  If the crew is not there immediately with fresh tanks, valuable time is lost while the pilot and crew try to find each other.

The winner is the first person to cross I-95, or whoever is ahead at sunset on Friday, May 31, 2024.

While the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonist compete in local events beginning Thursday evening around 6:00 pm.  Local flying events will take place also on Friday and Saturday.  The balloons will fly around 7:30 am and 6:00 pm each day (weather permitting).    The balloons will only fly for around 1 to 2 hours.  There are many opportunities for to the public to assist with the inflation of the balloons, or be a part of a chase crew and follow the balloon.  There will be approximately 20 balloons flying locally.

There will be NO ballooning activities during the middle of the day.

Helen offers many sights and attractions to keep one busy when the balloons are not flying.

Ballooning in Helen is challenging because the Alpine Village is surrounded by Mountains, National Forest and State Parks.  However it is worth the added effort when you can look down just above the tree tops at the mountains, the vast woodlands, the streams and the waterfalls.  You might even catch a glimpse of a group of deer or watch a hawk or eagle snare its dinner.

The Helendorf River Inn is the host and headquarters as it has been since 1974, as well as a major sponsor and organizer of the balloon race.  Barbara Gay has been organizing and sponsoring the race, as well as graciously hosting the pilots for many years.  Nowadays, Catherine Gay Cleiman is the event organizer.  Catherine, along with son Cole and the staff of the Helendorf, bring a great balloon event together for the city of Helen.   In 2003, the Gay family (Dick, Barbara & Catherine) were all recognized by the Ballooning Federation of America for their contribution to the sport of ballooning in the United States.

While staying at the Helendorf the pilots, their families and crews stay busy with hot dog roasts on the patio by the river, tubing down the river, hikes to waterfalls, picnics, buggy rides, an afternoon at the amusement park, a round of golf, gold panning, visits to museums or shopping.  Alpine Helen offers much for guests to enjoy.

Our Balloonmeister is Tarp Head.  He participated in the event the since the first year in 1974.  He won the race to the Atlantic in 1979.   His interest in the balloon race led to his vocation.  He started  HEAD Balloons, Inc., one of five FAA approved balloon manufactures in the United States.



May 30       7:00 am    lift-off for Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Mass Ascension
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

May 31       7:00 am     local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

June 1        7:00 am    local balloon event
                  6:30 pm    local balloon event

****** ALL BALLOON EVENTS ARE WEATHER DEPENDENT (No balloons if it is raining or too windy) -
             NO activites during the middle of the day, ONLY in the mornings and the evenings.******* 


The launch field is located across the river from Cool River Tubing & the city’s River Park on the Wilkin’s property.  To enter the field, go across the bridge at Cool River Tubing and turn left.    While the majority of balloons will use the launch field, a few balloons may also launch in various places around town.  .  .

   click here for a map to the launch field

* Our special thanks go out to all of the local land owners who graciously allow the balloonist to take off and land on their property.

For a  Map and Driving Directions  to Helen click here.


Check our Facebook page for updates on who is winning the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race. 




Click here to see photos of some of this year's participants. 

**2022 Race Results**  1st - Mark Mayer

**2021 Race Results**  1st - Jonathan Wright

**2020 - covid19 - no winner

**2019 Race Results**  1st-Drew Egerton, 2nd-Jonathan Wright, 3rd-David Bristol

**2018 Race Results**  1st-Daryl Tatum.  2nd-Jonathan Wright

**2017 Race Results** - winner Jonathan Wright

**2016 Race Results** - winner David Harwell

**2015 Race Results**  winner Daryl Tatum

**2014 Race Results - click here**   winner Steve Stokoe

  2013 - No winner -  the wind never blew towards the coast

**2012 Race Results - click here**       winner Daryl Tatum

** Congratulations to 2011 winner - Steve Stokoe**

**2010 Race Results - click here**       winner Daryl Tatum

** 2009 Race Results and Photos

**2008 Race Results  - click here**      winners - tie between Daryl Tatum & Steve Stokoe

**2005 Race Results  - click here**       winner - Rain

** 2004 Race Results  - click here **       winner Dan Stukas

** 2003 Race Results  - click here**       winner Steve Stokoe

**2002 Race Results s - click here**      winner- tie between Dan Stukas & David Bristol

Race Headquarters, sponsor and organizer of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival
Local Manufacturer of FAA Approved Hot Air Balloons
Official home page of Alpine Helen, Georgia
Official tubing company of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival
Official beer of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival.   
Northeast Sales Distributing - Athens, Georgia 
 The Helen Story  the history of Helen's transformation - The Helen Story  
and images of the past

 Click here to see Helen's 1st balloon ascension
Local "CANDY MAN" and balloon enthusiast David Jones book.  Click here to buy one, or better yet stop by Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen while you are in Helen and pick up a signed copy along with your fudge.


J.T. Head - youngest person to solo pilot a hot air balloon

VISIT NORTHEAST GEORGIA . com www.visitnortheastgeorgia.com  has a lot of information about the Northeast Georgia Mountains
www.n-georgia.com www.n-georgia.com is another great resource for information on Northeast Georgia
roadsidegeorgia.com Great website!  A good history of Helen and has much information on all of Northeast Georgia.

eBay sniper Ebay's Ezsniper - try it out for your next bid
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Hot air balloons inflated ready for lift off.



 For more information on the event check out our Facebook Page or email us at mail@helenballoon.com
  Hot Air Ballooning 


copyright 2023 - HABR



Click here to see Désirée and Tarp's webpage