11 Mar 2024

Beginners guide to organising a ballooning competition part 4: Resources

By Jonathan Perron-Clow, Deputy Director 2021 and 2022 Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships, and Member of the FAI Ballooning Commission (CIA) Public and Media Relations Sub-Committee

This article is the fourth in a four-part series, which aims to provide beginners with a simple guide to organising competition ballooning, written by an event organiser who started as a beginner! The series tracks the story of organising the 2021 and 2022 Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships with commentary on the planning, the requirements, the challenges overcome and the lessons learned along the way. There are many people who could provide a more structured account and who have organised much larger events, but I am writing this precisely to show that you don’t need to have all the knowledge together at the beginning.

Any group looking to organise an event will need to identify their target audience of would-be competitors ie. balloonists and find what they need to be convinced to compete. The Organising Team needs to have a mix of local organizers, competent officials and people ready to do the behind the scenes work that lets any event succeed. The event has to be planned in a Location that is conducive to competition ballooning with local support for it. Finally, you need the Resources to make it all happen, starting with propane and places to sleep and building from there. This is the subject of our final article...

 Canadian official André Lapointe
Longtime Canadian official André Lapointe, left, measures a marker at the 2021 Canadian
Hot Air Balloon Championship. Lapointe has led the measuring team for every competition
in Eastern Canada since 2016 and coached Team Canada at the FAI World Junior Hot Air Balloon
Championship in 2023. His experience and credibility have been very valuable to efforts to
organise competition ballooning. Credit: International de Montgolfières / Maryse Phaneuf


The Saint-Jean Festival organisers made for a great partner. As a balloon committee, our job became to find balloonists and support the officials. The location was set and the Festival organisers tasked themselves with finding the resources.

This proactive collaboration led to the 2021 and 2022 Canadian Championships which were wildly successful with eighteen rookie pilots in the first year. These were pilots we had reached out to way back in 2016. They became interested and finally were ready to fly a championship. Sometimes, all of this can take time.

Financing the project

It can take time, but money makes everything easier. That said, finding a large source of funding is not easy (if it happens to you, please feel free to share!). Therefore, it’s likely that a lot of the resources, in the form of currency or in-kind donations, will be a challenge to find.

Unrestricted sponsorship money – cash you receive to spend as needed on your expenses – is more difficult to obtain than in-kind donations. Ultimately, no one is making any money in competition ballooning – it is about the pure love of sport – so any help counts.

What expenses to expect

Propane and a place to sleep are the essential elements of any balloon event. After that, everything is optional, but it all matters. One principle I learned from Garry Lockyer is to “do what you say you’re going to do.” If you commit to free coffee at morning briefings, make sure it’s there every day. If you aren’t sure that you can do it, don’t announce it but add it as a bonus later. This becomes important as you build your reputation with pilots and if you are bidding to host events.

There are all sorts of other expenses that will creep up: security (fencing, guards, awards), food, rooms for officials, trophies, measuring equipment including targets and baggies, and anything else you might be familiar with already from organising other types of events. These are all scaled to the size, complexity and ambition of your competition.

Generosity of spirit

Depending on where your event will be located in relation to the balloonists, you may want to think about how you could either transport balloons to the event or get locals to lend equipment to the visitors. This is a perennial conversation in Canada where championships involve a 3000km drive for some competitors. The generosity of international pilots in passing their equipment also helps Canadians participate in events like the most recent Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship.

Each event will rely on whatever combination you can put together. In 2016, our Saint-Jean hotel generously gave us discounted rooms and meeting space. In 2018, a local propane company was set to donate $3000 CAD worth of propane, if we could put on a championship. By 2020, we were getting deals on both propane and hotels which mattered because, as an unstructured event, everyone had to pay their own costs, so minimising that was appreciated and made the event more accessible for participants.

For 2024, we’re doing it all over again! Putting together the lessons from the past eight years, we hope we can put on a scaled down Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championship. Finding money isn’t easy but we want to build on the wave of excitement we’ve created for this new generation of competitors. Let’s keep it up!

How to move forward:

  • Accommodations for officials, pilots and crew
  • Propane to fuel the balloons
  • Insurance, paperwork
  • Additional balloons, vehicles, fans, etc. for pilots coming from further away

Further help

The FAI Ballooning Commission has numerous resources such as model rules and lists of officials as well as an eager team willing to support organisers. We all benefit when more competitions are added to the calendar. 

I hope this series has been interesting and maybe helpful. I’m happy to share more lessons and work through challenges with you. Send me an email and see you at the target!

Throwing a marker at a competitive event is not just about getting a balloon to a target,
it’s the culmination of months worth of organising, so that when conditions permit,
an interested pilot has a target to fly to. It’s a very satisfying feeling for everyone involved.
Image credit: Bertrand Tougas

Header image: inflation at the 2nd FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship. Image: Jean-Pierre Girard