Illinois pilot takes 25th balloon race crown

Published 1:00 am Monday, October 18, 2010

Natchez — With another beautiful day, and flights from all 57 competitors, the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race came to an end on Sunday, but not before the winning pilots were awarded.

At a mid-morning breakfast banquet, winners were announced by Balloonmeister Bill Cunningham.

“We had a great weekend for the 25th anniversary of the race,” he said. “You never know how the weather is going to be, and it turned out to be some very difficult winds.”

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The winner for this year’s balloon race was Tom Oberheide of Cary, Ill.

This was Oberheide’s first win at the GMRBR.

Oberheide had already left to return home before the winners were announced Sunday morning.

Pat Cannon of Lewisville, Texas, placed second, Jim Birk of Defiance, Ohio, placed third, Joe McKay of Sharon placed fourth and Joel Jones of Seale, Ala., placed fifith.

Pilots were scored on five different tasks during the course of the weekend, with three of them coming on Saturday, and two of them on Sunday.

The barge drop competition does not count toward the overall scores, because it is such a difficult task, and not all pilots attempt it.

Cunningham said he was thankful for the turnout and the weather conditions for the race weekend.

“I am so appreciative things went well,” he said. “I am thankful we are always allowed to come to Natchez to have this event.”

Cunningham said the City of Natchez always hosts a great race.

“We can always rely on Natchez to make us all feel welcome,” he said. “It’s a fun community, and we are glad to have this race every year.”

Race Director Babs Price said she was happy for the amount of pilot participation this weekend.

“I am glad we had every one of you here,” she said. “I hope to see you all back for next year’s race.”