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Balloon festival ready for take-off

Mike Pero Real Estate’s flying house balloon. PHOTO/FILE

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Presuming the wind shows up, but not with too much vigour, the Wairarapa Balloon festival is set to send a bunch of baskets skywards today.

Among the balloons will be the first New Zealand flight of “Busby The Queen’s Guard”, and a flying house balloon owned by Mike Pero Real Estate.

“Busby” and the house balloon will fly in celebration of the festival’s 20th year.

Festival chairman Howard Watson said the festival was a mixture of events including competition for the balloonists and the Night Glow on Saturday, where the spectacle of all the balloons flying at the same time at night takes precedent.

The more competitive events require pilots to accurately read wind currents to fly from set take-off points to targets determined based on wind on the day.

“We put them in different areas, so balloonists have to try and find the different wind currents at different levels in the sky, to try and get to the set points.”

The Night Glow will take place from 3pm to 7.30pm at the Solway Showgrounds, whenever the weather is right.

“The colours really do show up on the balloons, and so we make the balloons glow like light bulbs to music,” Watson said.

Last year’s festival went “really well”, with favourable conditions for flying, in contrast to the previous two, where cyclones prevented them from “doing much flying”, he said.

The ballooning community in New Zealand, of around 35-40, was “almost like a big family”, and festivals were the only chance they got to show off their skills to each other, he said.

About 16 balloons are likely to feature in the Wairarapa festival.

The early morning take-offs, would be the best times to see the balloons for free, as soon as the sun rose.

“A lot of people don’t realise, you see the clouds moving in one direction, but up until those clouds, the wind’s moving in lots of different directions,” Watson said.

“So, when the balloons take off, often they all take off and they all go in different directions.

“It’s quite spectacular.”

Festival programme

6pm – Burner Parades on Greytown and Carterton Main streets. Free entry.

Friday, April 19

7am – Mass Ascension at Carrington Park, Carterton. Free entry.

Saturday, April 20

7am – Park to Paddock Challenge at Memorial Park, Greytown. Free entry

3-7.30pm – Trust House Night Glow at Solway Showgrounds, Masterton. Get your ticket at the Masterton or Martinborough i-SITE Visitor Centre or book online.

Sunday, April 21

7am – Te Kairanga’s Meander Over Martinborough at the Town Square. Free entry.

Monday, April 22

7am – Farewell Flight at Wairarapa College playing fields, Masterton. Free entry.

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