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Four Days Of Perfection

Four Days Of Perfection

The Trust House Balloons Over Wairarapa wound up on Sunday after four days of uninterrupted flying and crowd-pleasing spectacles by the cream of New Zealand ballooning culminated in one of the most successful balloon festivals held over the past 15 years in the Wairarapa.

Thousands of spectators lined Masterton’s Henley Lake to see lifeless fabric unfurl and dance over the expanse of the water, while thousands more enjoyed the festival’s highlight event, the Nightglow, where balloons lit up like multi-coloured light bulbs to music.

New challenges for the competition included the Resene skittles and a newspaper delivery challenges to the delight of the crowds. The pilots showcased their skills to maneuver their balloons using the varying wind directions to reach their competition targets before drifting over Masterton backyards and Wairarapa countryside

A highlight for all balloonists, both young and old, was the involvement of pioneering balloon pilot Wing Commander Roly Parsons.

It was the 72-year-old's first appearance at a major New Zealand ballooning festival.

Roly etched his name in ballooning history in the mid 1970s when he became the first to fly over Cook Strait only to repeat a series of more firsts by piloting a balloon directly over the top of Mt Cook and then crossing the Southern Alps. It’s been fifteen years since he last set foot in a balloon.

He enjoyed two flights with pilots keen to draw on his knowledge and later reflected that it felt almost like yesterday since he had been back in his own balloon conquering great heights.

“It is the most exciting thing I have done in a long time. I loved it. I just loved it. It really does seem like just yesterday that I was out there testing myself in my little balloon.”

“The Wairarapa, along with Canterbury are the major centre’s for the future of ballooning," he said.

Even after 15 years, no one had tired of Balloons Over Wairarapa, said event organiser Jonathan Hooker. “With an event that is 100 per cent dependent on the weather, this has been an outstanding four days. What an incredible spectacle in excellent flying conditions and the best flying and support we have had in many years.

The event feeds off the goodwill of our pilots and our sponsors and the people of the Wairarapa – it allows this event to be the success that it is.”

‘Balloon meister’ Martyn Stacey of Christchurch echoed the sentiment and said the response to the festival by pilots and the public had been amazing.

“We understand that there is a drought but from the pilot’s point of view, these have been perfect flying conditions which allowed for a lot more elements to each competition task which pushed the pilots to use their skill sets to the best of their abilities.”

“The Wairarapa remains one of the best places to fly in NZ with the perfect combination of great people and a great flying area. Balloonists love coming here and these past four days just added further proof to that.”

The ballooning competition winner was Scott Cursons of Wellington, with runner up going to the event’s youngest pilot Nicholas Oakley, 19, of Christchurch and Howard Watson of Wellington took third place.

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