On the second weekend in September, the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship takes flight at the Anstaff Soccer Complex in Harrison. Now in its 27th year, the 2022 edition of this festival will take place Friday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Sept. 11.
Fun for the Entire Family
As a family-friendly event, the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship will kick off Friday night with helicopter rides provided by Arkansas Helicopters and a Boy Scouts Kids Zone; both offerings will also be repeated on Saturday. Wally West will perform their music live on Friday night only.
A lineup of food and retail vendors will be on hand throughout the entire weekend.
A Colorful Sight
The first day of the event will conclude with the first of two balloon glows, in which participating flight crews will inflate their themed hot air balloons but keep them positioned to remain on the ground. The end result creates a colorful nighttime scenery, reflective of an array of glowing lanterns.
Then, on Saturday morning, the event begins to get competitive. There's a key-grab competition among the hot air balloons, with the participating crews being eligible to win a cash prize. The competition will involve balloon pilots maneuvering their hot air balloons toward a key that sits atop a pole. Then, to complete the task, the crews have to remove the key from its respective pole. The key-grab competition also continues on Sunday morning.
Saturday’s schedule will also include on-the-ground activities. Both a 5K Adult Fun Run and a 2K Kids Fun Run will benefit Grandma’s House, a children’s advocacy center in Harrison. The program for Saturday will also include A Kite R.A.C.E., a vehicle display from the Harrison Fire and Police departments. 7 South, a country and southern rock band from Arkansas, will perform that evening.
Let's Go For A Ride
Visitors to the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship can have the opportunity to go for a ride in a tethered balloon on Sunday evening, Sept. 11. The rides are made possible through a ticket purchase.
It’s recommended for those who wish to view the hot air balloons over the weekend to go to First Baptist Church at 1400 South Pine St. Spectators should come exactly between 7 and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday morning to catch some breathtaking views. For more information about the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship, visit their website or Facebook page.
What Else To Do In Harrison
Based within the heart of the Ozark Mountains, the Arkansas city of Harrison has other outdoor attractions within the area that are equally worth a visit. Add them to your plans before or after the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship.
Located seven miles from Harrison, Mystic Caverns provides knowledgeable guided tours through two of the most fascinating caves in the Ozarks -- Mystic Cavern and Crystal Dome. Mystic Cavern is adorned with regal columns, spherical stalactites, electrified helictites, and a 28-foot pipe organ. Then, the eight-story Crystal Dome sparkles from top to bottom, with an abundance of pure white flowstone and pools with cave pearls.
The Buffalo National River gives another visitor perspective, as National Geographic included it in their 2011 “Top 10 Unappreciated National Parks” article. It has three designated wilderness areas and three visitor contact stations. Considered to be the main one of three, The Tyler Bend Visitor Center is located in St. Joe, Ark. It's 18 miles south of Harrison.
The Baker Prairie is a natural area full of various unique species of plants such as the Ozark trillium and early goldenrod. Its inhabiting wildlife is common to the area, ranging from the Ornate box turtle to the Willow Flycatcher. Additionally, Baker Prairie has two mowed loop trails that can be walked along.
The area in which Harrison is based is also popular for motorcycle riding; a free guide can be requested here. As for lodging in and near Harrison, there are a number of chain hotels and RV and campground options.
Boone County Regional Airport in Harrison was previously the location for the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship. Southern Airways Express is the airport's main carrier, with flights including to Dallas/Fort Worth and Nashville.
- Location for the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon State Championship: Anstaff Soccer Complex, 202 Old Stonewall Rd., Harrison, Ark.
- Hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, Sept. 9; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10; and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11.