Rural Missouri Magazine

Great Pershing Balloon Derby
Brookfield, Mo.

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by Jason Jenkins
photo by Bob McEowen

For the past 34 years, a kaleidoscope of color has filled the sky above Brookfield as the community celebrates the Great Pershing Balloon Derby on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-6 this year. Balloon pilots like Eldon Benus of Keokuk, Iowa, seen on this month’s cover with passengers Jim and Sharon Dice of Davenport, Iowa, come from across Missouri and neighboring states to participate.

The floating spectacle began in 1977 as a fundraiser for a museum to commemorate native son Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who was born in nearby Laclede and led U.S. military efforts in Europe during World War I. Today, the event — which is the longest-running continuously sanctioned ballooning event in the nation, according to the Balloon Federation of America — features five days of activities.

One highlight of the event is Friday night’s “South Main Night Flame,” where balloons line Main Street for a glow. Weather permitting, the first of five planned balloon flights is scheduled for Saturday morning, followed by arts and crafts, music and concessions in East Twin Parks. Flights continue Saturday evening, Sunday morning and evening and Monday morning.

Sunday’s activities include a fly-in at the North Central Missouri Regional Airport, followed by a pancake breakfast and free plane rides for kids. Children also will want to stay for the ping-pong ball drop. A plane will swoop down releasing hundreds of the little spheres, some of which will correspond to a prize. Each child will receive a goody bag.

Events at the park, airport and downtown are free; admission to the balloon launch site is $2 per person or $6 per vehicle. For more details, call the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce at 660-258-7255 or visit or


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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