Balloons rally at Lake Shawnee


Terry Richardson

Hundreds gathered for the annual Huff n’ Puff Balloon Rally Sept. 8 at Lake Shawnee.

Locals spectated as balloon pilots prepared for the evening “glow,” the event in which balloons inflate, light up and take off into the night sky. Workers laid out the balloon envelopes across Lake Shawnee’s surrounding lawns. The envelopes are gradually inflated with cooling fans, followed by the heat of propane powered burners.

As the sun continued to lower, the various balloon designs were more easily admired as they were illuminated by the steadily growing flames. Crowds were delighted by the dozens of balloons as they took to the sky.

“It’s all really good,” said Sunny Parrillo, a spectator from Manhattan. “I have never seen a hot air balloon up close before. I didn’t know they lit up like that.”

This was the first of the event’s three day duration, which started Sept. 8 and ended Sept. 10. Glow events were held each night of the rally. Due to high winds, only three balloons took flight Friday evening and one took flight Saturday. 

“A balloon lands by colliding with the ground,” said Lori Hutchinson, 2017 Huff n’ Puff Balloon Rally coordinator. “Because of this, we are very careful. Balloons fly in winds of 10 mph or less.”

The last flight on Sunday morning saw all but one balloon land at the airport.

“This year was just awesome,” Hutchinson said. “As a pilot, it was an unbelievable feeling getting to fly with everyone.”

The Huff n’ Puff Balloon Rally has been the longest running free event in Kansas for the past 42 years. This year’s rally marks 20 years that the event has been held at Lake Shawnee. The rally annually donates money to charitable organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald House.

“I’m really glad I came,” Parrillo said.  “This is definitely a good time.”

People who are interested in upcoming hot air balloon events in the Midwest can check out the Great Plains Balloon Club at, or the Topeka Area Ballooning page on Facebook.