INDEPENDENT NEWS

Balloon festival back to four days

Published: Tue 14 Dec 2010 02:20 PM
Balloon festival back to four days
Wairarapa’s annual hot air balloon festival has been extended to four days for 2011, thanks to a successful event in 2010 and on-going sponsorship from Trust House and other supporters.
More than 20 hot air balloons and their pilots from throughout New Zealand and from overseas are expected for the 13th annual festival to be held from Thursday 17 March until Sunday 20 March 2011.
In 2009 the event duration dropped from five to three days due to declining sponsorship levels which organisers attributed to the recession.
“Following the success of last year’s event, including the Trust House Night Glow, we are pleased to be able to add another day,” said event organiser Jonathan Hooker. “The local and visiting pilots want to spend as much time as possible in Wairarapa, preferably flying but catching up with each other if weather prevents that.”
Mr Hooker said the focus remained firmly on a fun, friendly community event which can be enjoyed by pilots, locals and visitors to Wairarapa. The festival consistently attracts thousands of visitors to the region, particularly over the weekend with accommodation in the region usually full. The goodwill of the pilots, local sponsors and volunteers has enabled this event to continue but we are always looking for new sponsorship support to help keep the event here year after year,’ Mr Hooker said.
In another change, a revised programme will see the 2011 festival’s official opening held in Masterton. Venues being considered for the “mass ascension” are the Colin Pugh Sports Bowl and neighbouring sports grounds on Colombo Rd. “This guarantees we will have balloons flying over town before heading out to the country, which is always a highlight,” said Mr Hooker. “While Clareville Showgrounds has been a great venue for the last 12 years, the pilots felt it was time to mix it up and provide something different for them and the spectators.
On Thursday evening balloon crews will parade through Carterton’s Main St putting on a fiery burner display. On the Friday morning Carterton Memorial Square will, for the first time, be the focus as pilots attempt an early morning fly over with a competition to throw markers to a targets marked on the ground.
Wairarapa College will once again host the Friday evening event combined with its annual gala. Saturday morning will feature the traditional ‘splash ‘n dash’ over Masterton’s Henley Lake where pilots attempt to splash their baskets into the lake to score competition points.
The festival highlight, the spectacular Trust House Night Glow will be held on Saturday 19 March at Masterton’s Colin Pugh Sports Bowl, where tethered balloons light up the night sky in a dazzling light-show choreographed to music.
The festival will conclude on Sunday with an early morning flight over Masterton at a venue to be decided on the morning. The launch field will be chosen according to wind direction with the aim of having the balloons fly over town in a competition event.
Mr Hooker said organisers were working on another ‘exciting’ addition to the 2011 event which he hoped to confirm in the New Year.
‘Balloon Meister’ Martyn Stacey will direct the various ballooning events. From Christchurch, Martyn is the President of the Ballooning Association of NZ and has attended all previous Wairarapa festivals.
Wairarapa valley’s good road networks for balloon retrieval and large open paddocks make for easy and safe landings. Uncontrolled airspace and absence of a major airport gives balloon pilots more freedom than at most other events.
Further information is available from www.nzballoons.co.nz
ENDS

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