Pilot Greg Taggart flew the University of Nevada, Reno-sponsored balloon to first place before a weekend total of 175,000 spectators in the 27th Great Reno Balloon Race Sept. 5-7 at Reno's Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.
Taggart won the on-field competition, which tested pilots for their in-flight accuracy in tossing a weighted beanbag toward a marked target on the ground. Race officials tabulate scores to determine the winner in a competition that attracted pilots from as far away as Switzerland and New Zealand.
Taggart, who has piloted a balloon carrying a University banner for all but two of the past 22 years, finished third in the competition in 2007. He is from Citrus Heights, Calif.
David Steidley of Albuquerque, piloting the Shell Oil balloon, finished second. Temecula, Calif., pilot Dominic Chemello was third.
Beyond Taggart's repeated success in the balloon, the volunteer University Balloon Race Scholarship Committee had a good fund-raising weekend at its hospitality tent during race weekend. The committee collected $1,102 in donations for its custom-designed balloon race pins, which help support the awarding of two $2,000 scholarships to University of Nevada, Reno students.
The 2008 scholarship-winning students are senior music education major Elizabeth Cadigan and Matthew Schottel, a master's program student in counseling and educational psychology.
The 2009 Great Reno Balloon race is scheduled Sept. 11-13.