The hot air balloon festival in Wairarapa. PHOTOS/FILE
The hot air balloon festival is back in the business
After a three year hiatus due to covid, one of Wairarapa’s biggest events is heading to the skies again next year.
The Wairarapa Balloon Festival, one of the region’s most colorful and popular jamborees, is set to return this Easter.
It is expected to be bigger and better than before, up to 20 balloonists from all over the country are on the ticket, more than any other festival so far.
Installed for five days from April 14, balloon take-offs from different towns in Wairarapa are scheduled each day. The centerpiece of the “Night Glow” festival will be at the Clareville Showgrounds north of Carterton on the evening of April 16. This exhibition alone is expected to attract up to 20,000 people.
Featured on Wairarapa’s event calendars for more than 20 years, event director Peter Amyes said the festival could now take place under the “orange” setting of the government’s new traffic light system.
He said the two-year hiatus has allowed organizers to rethink the popular event. A revamped festival for next year will be the first of a new focus, in particular the “Night Glow”.
The evening’s big event would rely on ticketing, including vaccination passport requirements for entry. Unvaccinated people could not go there.
“We are very excited about the future of hot air ballooning in Wairarapa,” he said.
“We have decided to move the Night Glow to Clareville Showgrounds, which we believe allows us to take the festival to the next level.”
As a non-residential area, Clareville offered organizers more flexibility.
“We are working on creating a spectacular event that will feature skydivers, Tiger Moths flying overhead, model airplanes, drones, a laser light show and of course balloons. “
In addition to the show in the air, the entertainment on the ground will include live music and a range of dining options.
“Night Glow 2022 promises to be a joyful and vibrant extravaganza that you can’t miss, whatever the weather,” Amyes said.
With the uncertainty over the opening of the international border, the festival is expected to be attended only by balloonists from New Zealand.
The region’s open spaces, relatively calm climate, and loosely controlled airspace have made it one of the best suited and most popular regions in the country for balloonists.
“Hot air ballooning has the potential to have a very strong future here.”
“As part of our strategy, we aim to attract commercial hot air balloon operators based in Wairarapa and help establish a training environment for people wishing to learn to be a pilot,” Amyes said.
Work was underway to host an annual hot air balloon competition.
“Hot air ballooning is a sport, and we want to do everything we can to keep Wairarapa ahead of the balloonists.”
Barbara Hyde, marketing manager for Destination Wairarapa, said the confirmation of the festival’s return was good news.
“It’s an iconic event that showcases our beautiful region and is loved by literally thousands of people.”
“We often enjoy calm weather at Easter, and since it’s a long weekend, people won’t be rushing to school or work, so they can take time to watch the balloons and the entertainment specials at Night Glow.”
- Early bird tickets and family packages for the event are available starting December 1. More information at www.nzballoons.co.nz