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Balloons Back For Eighth Year

13 October 2005

Balloons Back For Eighth Year

Wairarapa residents and thousands of expected visitors will again look skywards for the best part of a week in March when hot air balloons from around the world converge on the region for the Genesis Energy Wairarapa International Balloon Fiesta.

Organisers have confirmed the fiesta dates as Wednesday 22 March – Sunday 26 March 2006 and say planning is well underway for the annual balloon extravaganza, now in its eighth year.

Up to thirty hot air balloons are expected to take part in the five days of competitions and displays at locations throughout Wairarapa. Flights will take place in the early mornings and weather permitting, some late afternoons.

Masterton Mayor and fiesta steering committee chairman, Bob Francis, said the fiesta was now recognised as a national event and had gained a lot of credibility internationally from the ballooning fraternity. "Each year we are seeing increased interest from overseas balloon pilots who are attracted to the Wairarapa by its hospitality, scenery and ideal ballooning conditions."

Mr Francis said there was no doubt that the event provided a good boost to the regional economy with weekend accommodation fully booked every year and evidence of an increasing number of day trippers from around the lower North Island over the five days. "Interest from national and international media also continues to grow giving the Wairarapa valuable exposure to markets for tourism and investment," said Mr Francis.

"The search is on to find new special shapes to bring to next year's event – this is always a challenging process as they are a big attraction and special shapes from previous years are hard acts to follow," said Mr Francis.

Mr Francis said organisers were continually working to attract new sponsors for the event which relied almost entirely on grants and sponsorship. "Without the commitment of our sponsors, the fiesta, largely a free event for the whole community, would not be possible," he said. Principal sponsor, Genesis Energy, has now supported the event for six years together with community-owned Trust House, the three Wairarapa District Councils and a variety of other local and national organisations.

The 2006 programme of events will follow a similar format to this year and include the 'mass ascension' launch from Clareville Showgrounds, two weekend events over Masterton's Henley Lake, a flight over Martinborough, visits to schools and the Night Glow at Masterton's Solway Showgrounds.

The Night Glow, which annually attracts about 15,000 people, will feature a programme of entertainment leading up to the spectacular 'glow' of tethered balloons in a synchronised display set to music.

Aviator and balloon 'meister', Bob Corey, will return from the United States for the eighth consecutive year to direct the various ballooning events.


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