Balloons over Waikato
Each year for several days in spring, the Waikato's horizon becomes a colourful display during Balloons Over Waikato. You don't have to be a balloon pilot or enthusiast to enjoy this spectacular celebration.
Waikato is a delightful New Zealand territory known for its natural beauty, thanks in part to its riverside location. It's home to the town of Hamilton, which has a stunning skyline filled with magnificent architecture and one of the most breathtaking sunsets in the area. In 2015, the Balloons over Waikato festival will run from March 25 through March 29 and is slated to enter its 26th year - the fest was established in 1988 to celebrate the hot air ballooning culture of the region.
All adults and children are welcome to spectate during this free event. In fact, some 130,000 people come each year to watch these magnificent crafts float across the sky, and visitors can even sign up for exhilarating hot air balloon rides. Learn about this vibrant festival and plan your trip to Hamilton with this helpful guide:
This event features hundreds of balloons of various sizes and forms, but a select few take the spotlight for their unique designs. In 2014, there were three special shapes that were showcased. The Hamilton 150th Balloon, which was created in Oswestry, England, resembled a three-tier birthday cake donning 16 candles and stood more than 29 metres high. If it were real, it would serve a slice to 7 million people.
Another feature was the Angry Birds Balloon, which was designed to honour the popular mobile game from which it takes its name. It's 10 storeys in height and took more than 24 kilometres of thread to make. It's the creation of Global Media Box CEO Benedict Savio, though he got the idea from his wife, who's a huge fan of the game. So far, the balloon has seen the U.S., Belgium, Taiwan and the Netherlands, and made its first trip to New Zealand for this fest.
The third special shape, the Resene Colourful Hummingbird, was also making its first visit to New Zealand. It's approximately 225 times bigger than an actual hummingbird at 122,500 cubic feet in size and was splashed with a rainbow of vibrant colours, which made for a particularly fascinating display when it lifted off.
Along with balloon displays, this fest features plenty of other activities. The most popular is ASB Nightglow, which takes place at Waikato University. The college celebrated its 50th birthday in 2014, so it went all out for the Saturday evening affair. The party kicked off at 4 p.m. with an oldies music performance by local act Total Addiction followed by sets by a range of other musicians who made their way through the decades, including 1970s band Enigma, 1980s group SQZ and 1990s rockers The Monroe's.
In between acts, there were other entertaining components - an air trainer flying display put on by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, a pyrotechnics show and a light and sound spectacle featuring balloons.
In addition to these main features, Balloons Over Waikato will offer plenty of other opportunities for fun. The extensive program has not yet been released for the 2015 event, but if previous years are anything to go by, this is not something to be missed. Keep an eye on the official website for the release of the program and in the meantime, book your accommodation early!
Photo courtesy of kiwinz