Sport ballooning is ballooning for fun, adventure, or competition, as opposed to ballooning for scientific, commercial, or military purposes. The Gordon Bennett Balloon Trophy Races, named for the American journalist James Gordon Bennett who donated the trophy, stimulated interest in ballooning as a sport. Competitions were held annually from cities in Europe and the United States from 1906 to 1938, except during World War I. The Gordon Bennett Aeronautic Cup was awarded to the balloonists who flew farthest and for the longest duration.
Sport ballooning still enjoys limited popularity in Europe. Beginning in the 1960s hot-air balloons replaced hydrogen-filled balloons in sport ballooning. Hot-air ballooning became a safe and accessible sport with the availability of rip-stop nylon for the envelope and propane burners to heat the air. The first flight of a modern hot-air balloon was made in 1960 from Bruning, Nebraska. In the United States balloon festivals are conducted in dozens of cities, the largest being the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held each October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This event was started in 1971 and with its size, color, and spectacle helped popularize the sport.