April 29, 2023. Louisville, KY. – With brisk and beautiful conditions, 21 balloons lifted off from Bowman Field this morning in the L&N Federal Credit Union Great Balloon Race. The race got underway just after 7 AM, as light winds took the balloons northeast from Bowman Field toward the Westport Road corridor.

The 20 “Hound” balloons took off in “chase” of the “Hare” – the L&N Federal Credit Union balloon, piloted by Scott McClinton. McClinton flew for about 45 minutes before landing at Standard Country Club off Brownsboro Road. 15 of 20 “hound” pilots made a measurable toss of their bag of Kentucky bluegrass seed near the target, a giant vinyl “X.”

Only half an inch separated the first and second-place winners in the 2023 Great Balloon Race. First place is the Sullair balloon piloted by Shawn Raya. He came within 1 ft, 3 1/2” of the target and won a free entry for the 2024 Great BalloonFest.


  • FIRST PLACE – Sullair, Pilot Shawn Raya –  1 ft, 3 1/2 inches
  • SECOND PLACE – Mirazon, Pilot Jerry Copas –  1 ft, 4 inches
  • THIRD PLACE – Jarboe’s Heating Cooling Plumbing, Pilot Rich Lawhorn – 4 ft, 9 inches
  • FOURTH PLACE – Terry Metzger (Private Entry), Pilot Frank Stevenson – 5 ft, 11 inches
  • FIFTH PLACE – Kroger, Pilot Bill Smith – 8 ft, 10 inches

Last night, balloon fans filled the Waterfront at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville for the Great Balloon Glow.

Since the first Great Balloon Race was held in 1973, the Derby Festival’s balloon events have been considered among the best in the country by pilots from all around the world. BalloonFest attractions are annually among the most popular family-friendly events on the Derby Festival schedule.

Contributing Sponsors of the L&N Federal Credit Union Great BalloonFest are Breeze Airways, Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay and Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Media Sponsors: MIX 106.9 and WLKY.

About Kentucky Derby Festival
2023 marks the 68th year for the Kentucky Derby Festival, a month-long celebration packed with 70+ events leading up to the first Saturday in May. As an independent community organization, it’s supported by 4,000 volunteers, more than 400 businesses and civic groups, Pegasus Pin sponsorships and event participation. It entertains more than 1.5 million people every spring and has a local economic impact of more than $127 million. This involvement has made the Festival the largest single-attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.
in the world.