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Balloon fest more than hot air

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It’s almost time for the skies to fill with a colorful array of hot air balloons as part of the 27th annual Highland Village Balloon Festival, which starts Friday. This year’s event is expected to draw larger crowds with a major new attraction.{jcomments on}

For the first time this year, wiener dog races are being added to the Sunday line-up as part of the three-day festival.
Watching the short-legged, long-bodied Dachshunds wander along 70-foot race lanes toward their owners enticing them with squeaky toys can be a lot of fun, says Dianne Ashmore with the Highland Village Lions Club, which organizes the annual festival.

“It’s just the most fun ever,” she said, adding a few members traveled to Buda, Texas, near Austin to watch their wiener dog races, which feature more than 500 racers. “It was hysterically funny. Wiener dog races are unpredictable in a fun sort of way.”

After seeing the races, Highland Village Lions Club members decided it was the perfect event to add to their Sunday morning line-up. “When we saw the event, it was such a good fit for our festival,” Ashmore said.

The Highland Village Balloon Festival, which started in the mid-1980s off Highland Village Road near FM 407, continues to serve as the main fundraiser for the Lions Club. Proceeds pay for hearing and vision screenings for preschool and daycare youngsters for free.

Last year, 3,347 free screenings were provided by the local Lions Club. Children as young as six months old can be screened. The club also provides free eyeglasses to students in need at the Lewisville Independent School District – a service it has undertaken for the past 27 years, Ashmore said.

In recent years, the club has asked schools in Highland Village to enter a poster competition. Principals and teachers select the top entries for the final competition. This year’s winner, Peyton Wohnoutka, is an eighth grader at Briarhill Middle School. The poster features a large rendition of a lion’s head, the City of Highland Village logo and a logo of the Highland Village Balloon Festival complete with a hot air balloon embedded in it.

“It’s another way we involve the community and reward the children,” Ashmore said, adding the youngsters receive recognition at their campuses as well as a city council meeting.

At the races

Qualifying races for the wiener dog competition will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday, with the winner’s race slated immediately afterward, around 11 a.m. Registration fees are $30 through Aug. 5 and $35 on-site only. This year’s race will be limited to the first 72 entrants.

Sponsored by Lantana Animal Hospital, the wiener dog races will have three winners with the first place sponsored by The Nosey Dog, second place by the Animal Medical Center of Highland Village and third place by Critter Care Animal Hospital. Those interested can register online at /http://lionsballoonfest.com/special-events/wiener-dog-races/.

In its second year, the 5K/1K fun run will continue to be part of the festival, Ashmore said. The 1K begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the 5K following at 8:30 a.m. Registration fees are $35 for 18 and over entrants in the 5K, $25 for those ages 17 and under. For the 1K race, fees are $20 for entrants age 18 and older, $20 for those ages 12 to 17 and $10 for those ages 11 and under. For additional information, contact Holly Reed at 972-317-2394 or at hotair5k@verizon.net.

More attractions

The free festival also features a kid zone complete with a climbing wall, inflatable or bounce houses and cookies for youngsters to decorate. Live bands will perform including Zac Stokes, Saints and Saviors, Justin Exit, Burning Sky Band and others. Food vendors also will be available as well as automobiles in the Classic Car Show ranging from the 1940s to 1962-63.

The non-profit festival, which has 21 balloons, differs from other larger shows because of the proximity visitors have to the event, Ashmore said. Crowds line around the football field and across the nearby pond to watch the preparation of balloons, lighting and then, the lift off.

 

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