Natl-Balloon-ClassicDozens of hot air balloons are taking flight over south-central Iowa this week. The National Balloon Classic runs through this Saturday in Indianola.

Staci Scheurenbrand is executive director of the nine-day event which started this past weekend. “We have about 80 balloons registered and that includes our special shapes,” Scheurenbrand said. “We have three special shapes this year; Peg Leg Pete, Gordo the Monkey, and the Purple People Eater.”

Daily balloon flights and competitions take place at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. (weather permitting). There’s something new to this year’s National Balloon Classic. It’s called Dawn Patrol, as balloons will launch in the darkness early Wednesday morning.

“At 5:15 a.m., they will launch at the field. They have special lanterns affixed to their balloons and when they fly, they look like giant lanterns kind of bopping in the sky,” Scheurenbrand said.

The initial Dawn Patrol was scheduled for Sunday, but it was canceled due to high winds. Another Dawn Patrol is set for this coming Saturday. Admission to the National Balloon Classic is free for the morning flights.

Admission is $5 for those 13 and older for the evening sessions, which include live music beginning at 6 p.m. Scheurenbrand expects 70,000 and 90,000 spectators over the nine-day period.