Balloon festival canceled, with massive crowds attending

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School children walk past a semi-inflated balloon. Sadly the festival couldn't go ahead due to high winds. Photo / Andrew Bonallack
School children walk past a semi-inflated balloon. Sadly the festival couldn't go ahead due to high winds. Photo / Andrew Bonallack

It was a night of mixed blessings for organisers of the Wairarapa Balloon Festival on Saturday, with huge crowds coming to the Night Glow show but with strong winds forcing the cancellation of plans to inflate the balloons.

So many people came to the Night Glow that organisers were taken by surprise and resources to cope with the influx were inadequate.

Yesterday the festival's committee - made up of volunteers - expressed sorrow at hearing many people had left the night glow at Solway Showgrounds feeling disappointed. They had been overwhelmed by the number of people who came along.

"In the past, the Night Glow has typically attracted between 2000 to 4000 people. Our ticket pre-sales suggested we should have a crowd of 6000," said the statement.

"Preliminary ticket sales figures indicate that Saturday night's event attracted 15,000 and put our resources severely under pressure.

"We acknowledge we did not have enough staff and volunteers to help with ticketing and car parking, which led to congestion and long queues.

"The large crowd also led to long queues in the food area and for that we apologise.

"Coupled with that, strong winds during the evening meant that the hot-air balloons were unable to be inflated. The decision not to inflate them was made by our experienced and professional balloon meister in the interest of public safety.

"We realise not having the balloons inflated was disappointing for everyone involved."

The statement went on to say that the good news was the full evening's entertainment, including performances by community groups, the headlining act and a fireworks display, went ahead as scheduled. Also, a modified version of the night glow involving a canister burn-off to music also took place.

Also Camp Quality, a volunteer, non-profit charitable trust dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children living with cancer, who were collecting money on the night through gold coin donations, reported double the takings of previous year.

The Night Glow show was part of several events held over five days during the Wairarapa Balloon Festival. Others including the Splash and Dash at Henley Lake, and morning liftoffs in Martinborough and Greytown, were all very successful and ran smoothly.

When looking ahead to the 2017 running of the festival, the organising committee said it would work hard to fix the issues that happened at the Night Glow to ensure i t remained a "well- run, family-friendly event that was at the heart of the community".

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