University balloon takes third in Great Reno Balloon Race event

9/21/2007 7:00:00 AM

As the 2007 Great Reno Balloon Race came to an end Sept. 9, at Reno's Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, there were many things to celebrate at the University of Nevada, Reno Balloon Race Scholarship Committee's hospitality tent.

Committee members and friends were enjoying everything from the university-sponsored balloon's third-place finish in the "Fly-In Task" event to a huge increase in donations for the committee-designed balloon race pins. All considered, the three-day event was nothing but a success.

A new record of 180,000 people attended the races this year to watch the more than 100 aeronauts pilot their balloons across the blue skies.  The Balloon Race event was so successful that the University Balloon Race Scholarship Committee sold out its balloon race pins.

"We were in a great location and had so much support that the balloon race committee efforts accomplished a lot," said Carole Anderson, who heads the 21-year-old committee. "This year was such a success that we hope to increase the scholarship amounts because we had so many pin donations at the hospitality tent."

The committee works all year to raise money for two scholarships by selling not only the $5 pins but also benefit scholarship drawing tickets. Each year the committee designs a new balloon pin along with getting raffle prizes donated from the community.  The committee had been awarding $2,000 in total scholarship money to two students each year since 1999, but was able to increase its individual student award to $1,500 recently and to $2,000 this year.

"Our relationship with the University Balloon Race Committee has become like family," said Gregg Taggart, who pilots the balloon. "The committee works hard all year and gets little sleep during the races. It makes my participation easy, and makes me and my family feel like royalty."

The "Fly-In Task" event was based on cumulative scores throughout the three days of the balloon races.  The University, as an event sponsor, received a glass trophy and a case of champagne. The balloon, named "Pack Jack," finished third against more than 100 competitors.  Taggart has flown with the University since 1986, only missing two balloon races in Reno.  He says the experience of getting together with his balloon community friends and the campus committee is very gratifying.

"The best part about coming to Reno is knowing that I can still fly this kooky balloon and being the vehicle for the UNR Balloon Race Committee to raise funds for scholarships every year," said Taggart. "I have been flying for 28 years and my passion for the sport remains."


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