ST. LOUIS – Thousands of people gathered Saturday for the annual Great Forest Park Balloon Race.

Wind conditions delayed the event for 51 balloons, but the passengers were ready to go once cleared.

“Seeing just the big scenery. Being in the air,” said Gavin Kuykendall. “Never in my life, never in my life, but I’m excited.” 

Gavin was a passenger in the balloon race. He spent months at Children’s Hospital for treatment and a heart transplant. He’s visiting from Tulsa, Oklahoma and this balloon ride means something special for his family. 

“Just taking this moment to reflect, we are truly blessed to even be here with his heart condition and standing here today talking to everybody, being a special guest of Purina, we definitely want to enjoy it and soak in the moment,” said Adam Kuykendall.

The crowds came out to see the race that is about precision, not speed or distance. 

“We have what is called a baggie. It’s a streamer with a bean bag on the bottom. We’ve got to get as close to that center of the X. First baggie on that center of the X will win the race,” said Aaron Gebhart.

All of the balloons were required to land 30 minutes before sunset.