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Spectacular Shapes For Wairarapa Balloon Festival


Spectacular Shapes For Wairarapa Balloon Festival

What do a 45 metre-tall daisy, a couple of bees, a giant flying nursery rhyme and a coffee mug have in common? They are all confirmed starters in one of New Zealand's most spectacular events, next month's Genesis Energy Wairarapa International Balloon Fiesta.

The five special-shaped balloons will join up to 25 more from New Zealand and overseas for the five-day balloon extravaganza from Wednesday 30 March to Sunday 3 April. They will take part in a series of early morning competitions and displays throughout Wairarapa, with several afternoon and evening events also scheduled.

Adorable bee couple, Lilly and Joey, from Phoenix Arizona, bear a striking resemblance to the iconic New Zealand buzzy bee. Velcro in the pair's hands lets them hold hands during lift off until they break apart once airborne. Their expert pilots can then manoeuvre the separate balloons to perform spectacular aerobatics including hugging and even kissing in the sky.

Recipient of the People's Choice Award for best special shape at the world's largest balloon fiesta in Albuquerque in 2003, Lilly and Joey can look forward to meeting up with a giant flower in Wairarapa skies, Miss Daisy.

Standing 45 metres tall and holding more than 5,600 cubic metres of hot air, the smiling Miss Daisy has a lot of flower power. From Ohio, USA, she's bright eyed on one side and winking on the other. Her pilot, Carol Weiner, returns for the second year to Wairarapa where she flew Sunny Boy, the popular smiling sun last year.

'Old McDonalds Farm' from Delaware State, USA completes the line-up of overseas shapes, bringing the nursery rhyme classic to life and getting kids of all ages singing E I E I O. The barn-shaped balloon comes complete with the old man himself, pig, bull, cow and donkey appendages, chooks and a cat and a 19-metre high grain silo on one side.

Carterton's Rick Walczak will pilot his big red Nescafe mug, the first special shape balloon to be owned and piloted by a New Zealander. The balloon stands 28 metres high and holds 4,000 cubic metres of air – equivalent to more than 11 million cups of coffee.

Principal sponsor, Genesis Energy, has substantially backed the fiesta since 2001 and has confirmed its support until at least 2006. Masterton Mayor and Balloon Society Chairman, Bob Francis, said the event, which is largely free to attend, continues to be almost fully funded by sponsorship from local and national organisations.

Telecom has been confirmed as the new sponsor for the fiesta highlight, the Saturday evening Night Glow at Masterton's Solway Showgrounds. Mr Francis said organisers were delighted to have attracted support for the event from one of New Zealand's largest companies. "The timing of Telecom's involvement fits well with their rollout of Broadband in the region and this is an opportunity for the community to recognize this," he said.

Community-owned Trust House, the three Wairarapa District Councils, More FM and the Wairarapa Times-Age also provide significant ongoing support for the event.

This year will see several changes to the flying programme which organisers say is designed to maximize flying time and crowd satisfaction. Both weekend early morning events, the Trust House Splash 'n Dash and the Key Grab will now be held at Masterton's Henley Lake. Mr Francis said the Sunday event's move from Hood Aerodrome recognised the huge popularity of Henley Lake as a venue which had more scope for the balloons to put on a crowd-pleasing display.

Other changes to the flying programme include scheduled late afternoon flights on Wednesday and Friday. A launch from Solstone Vineyard and Restaurant on Friday evening together with musical entertainment, food and wine will also be a chance to get up close to the balloons and meet pilots and crews.

The Wednesday and Thursday mass ascensions from Carterton's Clareville Showgrounds, Friday's flight over Martinborough, Saturday's lake Splash 'n Dash and the evening Telecom Night Glow remain unchanged. Balloon pilots will also make an educational visit to Wairarapa schools on Thursday afternoon.

Popular aviator and 'balloon meister', Bob Corey, returns from the United States for the seventh year to direct the various ballooning events.

Further information and full programme of events available from:

Kristina Lyall

Avenues Event Management Email: balloons@avenues.co.nz or

Lisa Sims Email: Lisa.Sims@xtra.co.nz

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