Monthly Archives: December 2013


The Bluegrass Balloon Festival originated as a charitable event to benefit the community in both entertainment value and by raising funds for charity. It began as the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival in 1999 and was renamed the Bluegrass Balloon Festival in 2007 after the Spirit of Kentucky Foundation acquired the event. This organization has built upon the charitable nature of the event to create a celebration that showcases the wonderful qualities of our great Kentucky home.


1999: The first Adam Matthews Balloon Festival was launched. On the last weekend in September, 52 hot air balloons gathered at Bowman Field to take place in a historical moment. The festival became a part of Kentucky’s aviation legacy. Bowman Field, the oldest continually operating airport in the United States, gave flight to a new type of air show as the home of the event.

2000: The second year of the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival experienced rapid growth with attendance of 70 balloons from across the United States.

2001: In 2001, due to the tragic events of September 11, flight at the festival was in doubt. Due to the petitioning of the festival, the National Safety Council and the FAA decided to allow the flight of hot air balloons two days prior to the opening of the festival. Approximately 75 balloons attended, making this the largest balloon festival held in Kentucky’s history. Over $20,000 was given in prize money! Pilots came from as far away as Canada and the western United States.

2002: Eighty five balloon pilots participated to compete for $27,500 in prize money. Pilots came from as far as New Zealand, Canada and the Western United States. Over $35,000 was raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Louisville Zoo and the WHAS Crusade for Children.

2003: One hundred balloons participated with $40,000 in prizes awarded, six hours of live TV coverage, and over 75,000 people attended the three day event. Portions of the parking fees benefited the WHAS Crusade for Children, along with contributions to the Louisville Zoo and several other local non-profit groups.

2004: The field was limited to 90 Balloons, but expanded children’s activities and the addition of a beer garden made this the largest festival to date. Money from the parking proceeds went to the restoration of the historic Louisville Clock.

2005: The field was limited to 90 balloons, yet over 100 balloons registered for the 2005 festival. There were two spectacular races and two fabulous glows. Attendance was record breaking, exceeding well over 100,000 people during the festival.

2006: 90 balloons kicked off the 8th year of the Festival on Friday morning with a beautiful flight. The weekend was filled with magnificent balloon activities and lots of family fun.

2007: The Spirit of Kentucky Foundation purchased the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival for $1 five weeks before the 2007 event. Volunteers, old and new, came together to deliver a nearly flawless event with over 90 balloons and the largest attendance ever. The Bluegrass Balloon Festival was named a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

2008: 10 years of celebrating aviation with a Kentucky spirit! Pilots from around the country competed for up to $40,000 in cash prizes. The festival expanded to include an art festival(sponsors are everywhere offering artwork for large walls), charity walk, volleyball tournament and breakfast with the balloons. The charitable impact of this event was magnified with profits pledged to area children’s charities including Kosair Children’s Hospital, Down Syndrome of Louisville and others.



spacerBalloon Pilots

Attention pilots! You are the star of our show. Registration, hotel and more information is just a click away! Apply for 2008 event!

Balloon Races

Watch the balloons inflate and the thrill of a mass ascension.The sport of kings lifts off each morning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Come to Bowman Field to watch the balloons fill and ascend into the sky in one of the largest races in the nation. Imagine the early morning glow accented by the color of balloons from all over North America. Pilots compete in multi-task races and traditional hare race for a rich prize package of $40,000. Times and type of races are shown on the balloon race schedule.

Balloon Glows

On Friday and Saturday evening, before sunset, the balloons will prepare for a spectaular night show. Come early, enjoy food and drink and get ready for a show of enormous proportion and colors! Each glow brings balloons of different shapes and colors. It’s never the same show twice.

Balloon Rides

Set sail in one of the largest races in the nation as one of only 40 very special people to ride in a Festival balloon. Enjoy the sights from the best view available! Don’t hesitate to book a ride as we will sell out.

Balloons at the Bluegrass Balloon Festival

Review a complete list of participating balloons and historical balloon race winners.

Balloon Crew

Join the balloon crew! Volunteering is fun and easy. The Bluegrass Balloon Festival is the #1 balloon event in Kentucky and #5 in the U.S. due to the generosity of over 600 volunteers. We offer community service hours and welcome the help of community groups and schools. One of the most exciting parts of volunteering in our festival is being part of a balloon team. You will experience ballooning first hand. Work with pilots from around the country to crew with the full thrill and excitement of being in a race!