Mark your Calendar and plan on being in Columbus, Kan. for the 22nd Hot Air Balloon Regatta to be held Oct. 7 - 9. 

Weather permitting; the skies over Columbus and Cherokee County will be filled with colorful hot air balloons, This is the only hot air balloon rally in the four state area of southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.

Technically, each balloonist is in competition with the other, but as they gather in Columbus everyone knows everyone else and the spirit is almost like that of a family reunion.

Several of the 20 balloonists have made each of the past twenty one years Columbus regattas, coming come from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.

Friday evening begins with a balloon glow at dark in the industrial park on highway 69 and Merle Evans Drive. The balloons tether and inflate for about 30 minutes.

In the early twilight hours, the fireballs from the propane burners make the inflated balloons appear to glow. This is a beautiful sight and something spectators won't want to miss.

Don't ever leave the field, until you see the pilots leave. Winds are very unpredictable, they may be high one minute, you wait a few minutes and the winds will change, so pilots and crew will take to the field. This can be the case not only for Friday evening, but Saturday and Sunday also.

On Saturday Oct. 8, the regatta continues with the first race departing from the industrial park around 7:15 a.m., it could be a little earlier, remember we can not control the winds or the weather.

The race, which will last around two hours and fly over parts of Columbus, Cherokee County and maybe into Oklahoma or Missouri, depending on the wind currents. This race will be a hare and hound race.

A lead balloonist (hare) departs 15 minutes before the hounds (other balloons). The hounds hope to keep up with the hare who will eventually place a large X marker on the ground. The pilots will try to drop their numbered designated throw as close to the X as possible without the basket touching the ground. This type of race will be repeated again on Saturday evening around 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday morning at sunrise.

"We encourage the public to come out early before the flights and view the balloons up close on the field and watch lift-off," Janet Lindsey, chairman advised.

"We would also like to ask for the public cooperation upon leaving the field after liftoff to please wait until all chase vehicles have departed the field. Chase vehicles are the ones carrying the crews that help the balloonist. It is a must that the chase vehicles be the first ones out as this is the only contact the balloon pilot has with his crew and they must stay in contact and in sight. The public is invited to follow chase of the balloons if they like, but we do ask that you stay out of the way of the crew and pilot," Lindsey added.

There is a parking fee with the public making the choice of either $1 per person each time of entering or a $5.00 parking pass per car that will cover all four balloon events and doesn't matter how many person are in the vehicle. There is no admission fee, just a parking fee.

The annual Columbus Day Festival will be taking place on Saturday Oct. 8 on the Columbus Square. Activities will begin at 9 a.m. and continue till 4 p.m. What ever your age, there will be something to enjoy - a Parade, Car Show, Antique Tractor Show, Crafts,Children's Festival, Pie Baking contest, Inflatables, Entertainment and food.

Complete schedule may be obtained at www.columbusdayballoons.com or by calling the Columbus Chamber of Commerce at 620-429-1492.