The 2022 FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest drew its largest crowd ever to Shawnee, Oklahoma, on August 12 and 13 to enjoy hot air balloon rides, live music performances and family entertainment.

It is a free, annual event that offers both tethered and untethered balloon rides, a nightly balloon glow, concerts, food trucks and vendors. This year, 25 hot air balloon pilots and crew members brought their balloons to Shawnee, five more than 2021. More than 50,000 people attended over two days.

“The committee works hard to make each year better than the last,” said Linda Capps, Vice-Chairman, Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “Balloon Fest is such a fun event, and it’s a privilege to provide a space for families to come together and create new memories.”

Josie Scott and her husband, Michael, brought their balloon, Spirit’s Rainbow. They have attended FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest since its inception in 2017.

The Oklahoma City resident said the community aspect of Balloon Fest is what draws the couple back each year.

“It’s been great to see it grow each year, to see how the community has jumped in and wanted to be a part of this. It’s one of the only events that is free to get in so more people can come and enjoy it,” Josie said.

Josie enjoys interacting with the youngest balloon enthusiasts. Children often ask if it is possible to cook a hot dog or marshmallow in the burners used to inflate and lift the balloons.

Having time for those conversations is the best part of the weekend, she said.

“We get to bring the people up to our baskets and talk about the balloons. When they’re coming up to the balloon and they have never seen one before — that interaction is my favorite part,” Josie said.

They also spend time catching up with their fellow balloon pilots, something that is not always possible at larger balloon events. This year, the Scotts even met with friends and relatives from Missouri, Kansas and Texas.

“All of that just makes it more like it’s a big family,” Josie said.

The FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest will return in 2023, with new activities for its sixth year.

“As soon as our event is over, we start planning for the next one,” Vice-Chairman Capps said. “We have a committee of about 30 employees who commit a lot of time to planning this event. Dennette Summerlin, Kelley Francen, Jennifer Bell, Richard Driskell, Jason Boyce, Tyler Maxwell, Joe Garcia, J.T. Summerlin, James Straus, Charles Meloy, Gena Rice and our police, security and housekeeping departments all go above and beyond to make this event a success.”

National recording artist and Oklahoma City native Bryan White headlined Saturday night’s concert lineup. White said he was happy to be back in Oklahoma again, playing for hometown fans.

The FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest won the 2021 RedBud Award for Best Event from the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association. The RedBud Awards honor the state’s best tourism attractions and events.

FireLake Grand Casino & Resort sponsored the music performances. FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest is held in conjunction with the Outdoor Nation Expo hosted by Visit Shawnee at the FireLake Arena.

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