LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hot air balloons flew over Louisville for the Kentucky Derby Festival's first event of its Great BalloonFest. 

The U.S. Bank Great Balloon Charity Race lifted off from Bowman Field just before 7:30 a.m. on Thursday.  Local celebrities competed to win a $1,000 donation from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation for their charity of choice.

WDRB's Keith Kaiser was one of those celebrities racing to donate to the American Red Cross. 

More than a dozen balloons were paired with balloons in a Hare and Hound format race. The celebrities in the "Hound" balloons try to drop a bag of bluegrass seed closest to the target for the win. 

This year's winner was the IMTS Balloon piloted by Patrick Fogue and featured celebrity co-pilot Henry Wesley, who is a chef at Village Anchor.

The toss was 9'2" and Village Anchor won $1,000 to donate to the Kentucky Humane Society.

This was the first of five balloon events scheduled in the U.S. Bank Kentucky Derby Festival Great BalloonFest. 

More balloon events are scheduled through Saturday morning: 

  • The U.S. Bank Great Balloon Glimmer is at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on the North and South Great Lawn, of Kroger's Fest-a-Ville . It includes 18 balloons.  There is also live music starting at 7 p.m. on the Great Stage from A-Corde. 
  • The U.S. Bank Great Balloon Rush-Hour Race launches at 7 a.m. Friday from Bowman Field. 
  • The U.S. Bank Great Balloon Glow returns to the Kentucky Exposition Center with 29 balloons on Friday night.  Gate open at 6 p.m.  At 9 p.m., the balloon pilots will fire burners to create the glow synchronized to music on radio station 106.9 Play. 
  • The final event is the U.S. Bank Great Balloon Race, which launches 25 balloons from Bowman Field Saturday at 7 a.m.  The first Great Balloon Race was held in 1973.

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