IMG_3327Darth Vader and a fleet of “Imperial Stormtroopers” return to the 31st annual Great Reno Balloon Race, the largest free hot-air ballooning event in the world. Set for Sept. 7-9, 2012 at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, Reno, Nev., another milestone includes the most special shaped balloons in a decade. First time balloons confirmed to date include “Shark,” “Planet Earth,” “Pondemonium” and “Strawberry Heights.” Look to the Reno skies for the return of fan favorites “Smokey Bear,” “Sushi,” “Party Panda” and “Soccer Ball.”

“How does the largest free hot-air ballooning event in the world, top itself each year? Simple. We bring in more special shape balloons and offer more,” Pete Copeland, executive director of the Great Reno Balloon Race said. “Right now our goal is to confirm our special shape balloons and determine our final number. It’s been very positive and it looks like for the first time in several years we’ll see more than 100 balloons. We’re also adding more family focused activities, new concessions and a new layout to enhance the overall festival feel and total experience for the event.”

The 86-foot tall Darth Vader balloon, which depicts the infamous black helmet from the Star Wars villain, travels from Belgium and is making its second flight at the Great Reno Balloon Race. Exclusive rides for the Darth Vader balloon and balloons during Dawn Patrol will be auctioned off on eBay.com starting in July.

The “Sushi” and “Shark” balloons will be tethered this year for the Children’s Cabinet, so at-risk kids can experience team building and the joy of a hot-air balloon flight.

For information about The Great Reno Balloon Race including reserved VIP parking passes, volunteering and sponsorship contact 775-826-1181 or visit online www.renoballoon.com.

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