The Balloon Fiesta has been an annual event on the Hamilton calendar since 1991, normally being held in the Mar-Apr period. The Fiesta lasts a week and incorporates a number of events which attract balloons and balloonists from all round the world. These include distance, and accuracy events, 'hare & hounds', and 'splash & dash' competitions, a 'key-grab', and the grand finale 'night glow'. The night glow has grown from a few balloons on a local reserve attracting a bunch of spectators, to a huge spectacular incorporating the balloons, laser shows, a parade, a variety of musical and other entertainment. A feature of the last few fiestas has been the participation by 'shaped balloons, including a cow, a tyranasaurus, and the agfa film canister. More information on Hamilton events can be found here . Sponsors include Agfa who also display a few photos of the event.
The following images give an impression of some of the events, and the growth in the past few years. Go here for an account of the flight I had in 1998!
The very first Balloon Fiesta - and the first chance I had to get up close to a balloon. It was an 'interesting' experience to be out on Innes Common at 6.30am in the fog, watching the ballonists set up. However my strongest memory is that first Night Glow, on the fields behind the Claudelands showgrounds, as the half-dozen balloons lit up like Chinese lanterns. This event has been a must for me ever since.
As the photos show, the number of Balloons rapidly grew to the thirty mark - and then some in the following years. The early morning starts on Innes Common took on a surreal effect with the multitude of colours, and the amazing sounds the gas jets make. The night-glow certainly got better too.
There have been a variety of sizes and shapes to the balloons - but for me the Cow rules. It just seems to be a cartoon come to life as the head lifts and the legs move. I watched it from across Hamilton lake one afternoon, and as it inflated, it appeared to be grazing on the trees at the side of the lake.
A new participant in 1997 was the Kookaburra shaped balloon. The balloon is owned by Frank Hackett-Jones, an Australian who lives in Guernsey - hence the UK registration on an Australian symbol. The balloon is based in Australia, operating from Canowindra in New South Wales. The balloon, made by Cameron, is huge - 120,000 cubic feet stretching over 150ft from beak to tail. I spoke to the pilot who said the awkward shape meant the balloon needed a bigger crew than regular-shaped balloons and had three times as many vents. Fortunately for me the Kookaburra one landed practically in my backyard one morning ! So here are some images of its arrival and deflation.
I also got one image of the Agfa balloon which I really like - Agfa were sponsors again this year, and their balloon fiesta site is here .
In 1998 I got to to something new - I went up in a balloon! A description of what happened (and more pictures) can be found here
© 1997-1999 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved