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A Fan's Guide To Centennial Era Balloon Festival May 8 At IMS

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The 2010 Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T builds on the success of the popular return of hot-air balloons to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009, and 33 balloons are poised to take to the sky and entertain families on the ground Saturday, May 8.

As with all the Speedway's exciting racing events, knowing the balloon lingo and rules, understanding the effect weather can have on the event and preparing for a visit to IMS will add to every fan's enjoyment of the balloon festival.

Here's what to expect and see Saturday, May 8 at the Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T:

Admission/Parking: Admission and parking for the Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T are free to the public, and IMS customers should plan to enter the IMS grounds via Gate 9A, normally a credentials-only gate on Georgetown Road just north of 25th Street. IMS Safety Patrol and security personnel will direct customers to the proper parking area. Fans will exit the facility via Gate 2, the main tunnel/gate leading to 16th Street. This traffic pattern is in effect for the Centennial Era Balloon Festival only.

"Hare and Hound" Races: The May 8 "Founders Race" at the Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T will use the "Hare and Hound" race format.

The race starts at 7:30 a.m. (ET). Although the Speedway's infield is closed due to the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, fans can watch the balloons ascend from numerous points around the facility.

The "Hare" balloon for this event will be the yellow balloon carrying the AT&T Real Yellow Pages logo. It will be the first balloon to leave the ground, flying approximately 15 minutes in front of the other balloons, and will fly to an appropriate landing spot where a race official will place an "X" target on the ground.

The "Hound" balloons - the rest of the field - attempt to navigate to the Hare's landing site and drop a 2-ounce bean bag closest to the center of the "X." The winner is the pilot who drops a bean bag closest to the center of the "X."

Balloons reach an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet during races, but pilots will attempt to descend as close to the target as possible when dropping the bean bag.

Weather: Hot-air ballooning depends on calm weather. Balloons cannot fly in rain and, due to safety considerations, cannot launch if ground-level winds are greater than 10 mph. A balloon "glow" can take place in slightly windier conditions, if on-site weather and event authorities determine it can be conducted safely. Glows cannot take place in rain.

Glows: A balloon "glow" is designed around inflated, tethered hot-air balloons using their burners to light the colorful balloons, similar to a candle. The balloons remain on the ground throughout glows, and the general public is welcome to walk around the balloons and talk to the pilots and crew.

Typical activities at a balloon glow may include an "all glow" when all of the balloons light up at once; a "twinkle glow" with each of the balloons randomly glowing to cast a candle effect; and a "wave glow," having the balloons sequentially, in a row, glow in order.

The Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T balloon glow is set for 8-9:30 p.m. Saturday, May 8 in the middle of the IMS infield. The IMS Concessions Stand and Official Trackside Gift Shop in the Pagoda Plaza will be open from 5-9:30 p.m., along with the Oliver Winery wine tasting tent, complimentary balloons for kids from "Matt the Balloon Guy" and other entertainment, including a concert featuring the Gin Blossoms and Red Moon at 5:15 p.m.


Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T Fast Facts

WHAT:           Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T, featuring 33 hot-air balloons. Admission and infield parking are free to the public.

WHERE:        Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield*

*The IMS infield is closed Saturday morning due to the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon; fans can watch the balloons ascend from outside the IMS grounds.

WHEN:           Saturday, May 8 (and Sunday, May 9 if required)

May 8:

7:30 a.m.: Founders Race begins (no public access to IMS infield due to OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon)


5 p.m.: Gates open (enter/park via Gate 9A on Georgetown Road north of 25th Street); Oliver Winery wine tasting, "Matt the Balloon Guy" and other entertainment in the Pagoda Plaza; Vendor row opens along the balloon field


5:15 p.m.: Live music featuring the Gin Blossoms and Red Moon


8-9:30 p.m.: Balloon "Glow"


9:15-9:30 p.m.: Fireworks

May 9:

7:30 a.m.: Founders Race if postponed May 8 due to weather; IMS infield closed beyond Hall of Fame Museum parking lots


2010 Indy 500 tickets: Tickets for the 2010 Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 30, are on sale now. Race Day ticket prices start at just $20.

Fans can order tickets online at, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area or

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