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Wings festival grounded

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

After two years in the making, with pilots and punters travelling from afar, the big Wings Over Wairarapa weekend was washed away.

It was the first air show in New Zealand to be completely cancelled, according to the festival director Tom Williams.

The Wings weekend, starting on Friday, was a progression of cancellations, due to persistent rain wreaking havoc on the ground, and low cloud creating poor visibility.

Mud and wet conditions at the cancelled Wings Over Wairarapa.

The three-day event was cancelled daily, with the postponement of the Saturday night show rebooked for last night.

However, the decision was made by organisers early Sunday morning to cancel the festival in its entirety.

In the wake of the cancellation, supporters took to Facebook applauding the organisers for their efforts. Organisers also confirmed that refunds would be available.

Looking ahead

Wings over Wairarapa chair Bob Francis said it was disappointing the show was cancelled, but once everything is cleaned up, they would start planning 2019’s event.

“We are standing up to it really well and we are just moving on,” Mr Francis said.

“We have a lot to do… and we will get through these few weeks and start planning the next one.”

The cancellation was devastating for everyone, but more so for the organisers, some of whom had been working on the festival for 22 months.

While the disappointment has set in, the organising crew’s spirits were lifted by the projected number of punters.

Based on pre-sales for the weekend, they were expecting similar numbers to the 2015 event in which 24,000 people made it through the gates over the three days.

“[We were] really staggered with presales – we tracked every day and we were confident [to pass 24,000],” Mr Francis said.

With those numbers of sales, it was a positive for next time knowing they were doing something right, he said.

“We recognise that though we lost the show, the economic impact on the region still has been significant with accommodation, cafes, restaurants, and retail outlets experiencing high turnover and big demand.”

He said while some pilots had travelled from a distance to put on a good performance, they were more disappointed for the organisers.

While he could not confirm the potential financial loss of the event, he said they were working with the insurance broker around the cover purchased a few weeks ago.

Overwhelming support

Event manager Jenny Gasson said the festival was officially cancelled yesterday morning due to predicted rain, and the chance of thunderstorms and small hail.

“This is extremely hard for everyone involved but it’s heartening to know we have the support of our sponsors, our volunteers, our partners and the public that this was the right decision,” she said.

Mrs Gasson acknowledged those who rang her especially asking for the festival committee to keep their ticket money as a donation, rather than request a refund.

Britain based air festival commentator Trevor Graham said he felt for the organisers.

“In nearly 38 years of experience in international air shows and working at 2000 events, this is the first one I’ve been working at that has been completely cancelled,” he said.

“My thoughts are going to out to the volunteers and organisers, who in my opinion, work hard to put on the best medium sized air show in the world.”

Region booked out

Destination Wairarapa’s marketing manager said while the air show didn’t go ahead, people coming from across the country for the event still came, with accommodation “at capacity”.

“It was meant to be a big calendar event for the region.

“We would have had more people come [yesterday] for sure.”

On Friday after looking at the weekend’s forecast, organisers and Mrs Hyde had “back-up plans” in case the show was cancelled.

She made sure the region’s tourism operators were prepared, some of which offered deals for Wings ticket holders.

Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre and Tui Brewery offered deals for those missing out on the show.

Organisers ask people wanting to request a refund to email [email protected].

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