Pilot From French Lick, Indiana Takes Kentucky Derby Festival Race
An Indiana pilot took first place Saturday at the Kentucky Derby Festival's 41st annual U.S. Bank Great Balloon Race. Jerry Copas dropped his bag full of grass seed from his French Lick Resort Balloon closest to an "X" on the ground to claim the title.
The race is held each year in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby. French Lick is a resort and casino in south-central Indiana.
The Jeffersonville, IN, newspaper the News and Tribune reports that Copas has been a balloon pilot for 33 years, flying the aircraft for corporate advertising campaigns. He has been competing in the Derby balloon race for the past 27 years, and said that it was watching the race as a youngster that inspired his interest in ballooning. He earned is balloon pilot certificate at the age of 18.
Copas' grass seed "bomb" landed just 14 inches from the target. The next nearest pilot was more than two feet further away.
According to About.com, the Great Balloon Race has been part of the Kentucky Derby tradition since 1973. The first race had only seven aircraft participating, and it has grown steadily since that time, and has grown into an entire weekend of ballooning events.