Space galore for giant shuttle replica at fiesta

By Vomle Springford -
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GRACEFUL: Balloons above beautiful Wairarapa during an earlier fiesta.
GRACEFUL: Balloons above beautiful Wairarapa during an earlier fiesta.

The world's tallest hot air balloon will take to the skies in Wairarapa's revamped ballooning festival in March.

Towering at nearly 54m - taller than the Statue of Liberty - the Patriot space shuttle replica will be among 25 other hot air balloons in the four-day festival.

STAR OF THE SHOW: The world's tallest hot air balloon, the Patriot, will feature at the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED
STAR OF THE SHOW: The world's tallest hot air balloon, the Patriot, will feature at the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Balloons over Wairarapa has a new look with a refreshed programme and a new name - Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta.

The new events and venues are an exciting part of the annual event, which sports a return to the original name of Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta, said Jonathan Hooker, chairman of Wairarapa Balloon Society.

He said organisers were still working on other additions to the gala, which he hoped to confirm in the New Year.

The event's official opening, with hot air balloons taking flight, will be held over Masterton.

After a long absence from South Wairarapa, a dawn flight will take place in Martinborough.

There will also be a launch from Carterton's Carrington Park and a burner parade in Carterton and Greytown.

The festival highlight, the Night Glow, will be held at Solway Showgrounds where tethered balloons will glow and brighten the night sky in a choreographed show.

The popular Henley Lake challenge will also return for the final event.

It will be the Patriot's first trip down under to fly exclusively at the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta.

Eight metres taller than the Statue of Liberty and with a wingspan of 35m, it tips the scales at 449kg.

It is 40 per cent larger than a real space shuttle.

A crew of 15-20 people will be needed to inflate and pack away the massive balloon.

Built in Brazil in 2003, the Patriot was created to honour 100 years of powered winged flight.

It will be piloted by owner Barry DiLibero, of Pennsylvania, who has been flying balloons since 1991.

Having always been interested in balloons. He was working part time for a Philadelphia radio station and tried to persuade the station to buy a hot air balloon.

The radio station didn't buy one but he decided to get one anyway as well as a pilot licence.

Twenty two years later, he has five hot air balloons including a flying lighthouse and a US flag.

The fiesta will be held March 13-16.

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