Look up in the East Texas sky as the sun rises and you might just catch sight of some of the beautiful hot air balloons floating overhead. Time is fast approaching for the annual Great Texas Balloon Race and the Balloon Federation of America’s Hot Air Competition Division has announced the selection of Longview to host the U. S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship.
This year, balloon flights will begin a few days earlier as the national event kicks off on Tuesday morning, July 24, with a flight over the city of Longview. Launch and landing sites change each day as they are determined by the wind and weather. This world-class event attracts the very best competitive pilots from across the United States and the world.
It takes an army of local volunteers to ensure all runs smoothly, including the arrival of the balloonists and event visitors, the arts and craft merchants, food vendors, Kids Land, and the musical concerts. And behind the scenes, GTBR advisory board member Venus Smith is hard at work each day as the finance assistant co-chair, a role she has enthusiastically embraced for three consecutive years. “Serving others is what I love to do! I want to also inspire those around me to make lasting memories with family and friends. If you have families that are happy and productive, your community will, in return, be a happy and productive one,” Mrs. Smith said.
The evening events will begin on Friday, July 29, with live music featuring J.B. and the Moonshine Band, and Saturday evening’s performance will feature the legendary country recording artist Ronnie Milsap. Both nights will include the always exciting, up-close and colorful Balloon Glow.
“This family-friendly event brings in revenue for our city and the surrounding communities,” Mrs. Smith said.
In addition to her time spent with the GTBR, Mrs. Smith has also volunteered as finance chair for AlleyFest the past four years and also volunteers at the East Texas Outdoor Expo.
Born in Dallas, Mrs. Smith has lived in Longview for 16 years. She and her husband, Longview police officer Lanie Smith, Jr., have been married 22 years and have three children, Craig, 19, Britani, 16, and Lauren, 14. Mrs. Smith is an administrative support specialist in the Trust and Investment Division of Texas Bank and Trust and has recently earned her Certified IRA Professional designation.
“I love the uniqueness of Longview,” Mrs. Smith said. “It has the small-town feel, while still being a proactively growing community. Volunteering in my community allows me to build relationships in connection to serving those that I live and work with.”