Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Festival finishes on a high

The Wairarapa Balloon Festival had a “ripper of a final day” yesterday, although it was looking as though a persistent drizzle might force another cancellation of flights.

“We were in a holding pattern until around 8.30am, and then it was all go,” festival communications manager Shaun McGillicuddy said.

The balloonist who travelled furthest yesterday ended up in Ōpaki.

“He didn’t intend to, but that’s the way it goes,” McGillicuddy laughed.

“We obviously get the best information we can about the weather but, everything’s up in the air until about 10 minutes before we ascend.”

On average, each year’s balloon festival generally features one cancelled day as a result of uncooperative weather; this year, flights had to be cancelled on both Thursday and Saturday due to high wind speeds.

On the cancelled days, the daily landing prize of 200kg of Sharpe Farm Feed product that would’ve gone to the owner of a property where balloons touched down was given instead to, respectively, the Wairarapa branches of Riding for the Disabled and the Deerstalkers Association [the latter for the deer at Queen Elizabeth Park].

Despite changes to the schedule, McGillicuddy said the festival once again received great support from Masterton and Carterton locals, with about 500 people checking out the balloons’ ascension on Friday and another 300 or so coming to a ‘meet the pilots’ event at Carrington Park on Saturday afternoon – even after it had to be postponed by a few hours because “there was a bit too much of a breeze to stand up the balloons earlier on”.

“It was great to see so many people interested in meeting the pilots and getting amongst it; it’s that community aspect we’re always striving for,” he said, adding that the festival’s social media pages have enjoyed a huge amount of engagement.

For his part, McGillicuddy, who is one of just seven people who organise the annual event, is already looking ahead to next year’s festival – “Well, once I’ve had a wee nap to recover from this one, anyway.”

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