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3–2–1 … And the Balloon Festival has liftoff

Wairarapa skies will be filled with the spectacle of rising hot air balloons during the long Easter weekend, thanks to one of the region’s flagship events.

About 65 balloonists from all over New Zealand will showcase 13 balloons at the Wairarapa Balloon Festival for five days starting this Thursday [March 28].

Wairarapa Balloon Festival communications manager Shaun McGillicuddy said the organisers are excited to offer free entertainment to the community again this year.

“We’d love to see people coming along to the launch sites,” he said.

“It’s a real thrill seeing the burners light up and the hot air filling the balloons up, and it’s the perfect spot to see all the action.

“We plan to take off from Carrington Park and Wairarapa College, but the ascensions are very weather-dependent.

“We’re hoping for light winds and clear skies.”

Wairarapa Balloon Society president Dean O’Brien said that although the forecast looks “very changeable”, he hopes the weather will clear for the mass ascension on Thursday in Carterton.

“With ballooning, we don’t have a contingency for bad weather,” he said.

“We can’t fly at all in the wind and rain.”

O’Brien said the crew will be out before sunup during the festival and will make the decision to cancel the day’s event, if necessary, at about 6am.

Weather permitting, spectators can observe lift-offs from Carterton on Thursday and Saturday morning and from Masterton on Friday and Sunday morning.

On Easter Monday, the event’s final day, balloons will ascend from various locations across Carterton and Masterton, which will create a scattering of balloons in the sky.

People are invited to the locations where the balloons ascend from 6:30am for a close-up view.

There is also an opportunity to do a balloon walk-through and meet the pilots on Saturday from 4pm at Carrington Park.

This will be a relaxed and informal afternoon for families who can bring a picnic.

The festival organisers will provide updates on take-off locations, with flight directions being posted on the event’s Facebook page each night from 8pm and announced on More FM Wairarapa 89.5 FM.

For more information and the full programme – including any day to day changes – visit the Festival Facebook and Instagram pages.

This year there is no ticketed “Night Glow” event, which will return in 2025.

O’Brien is also encouraging landowners to place a mark on their property to show where balloons could land safely in order to be in the draw to win products from Sharpes Stock Feed.

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