Balloon fiesta fills skies with colour

People flock to Masterton Balloon Fiesta

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 14:13 13/03/2014

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"The best balloon meeting in the country" lifted off this morning, with perfect weather, hundreds of spectators and a giant inflatable house marking the occasion.

As this weekend's Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta got underway, 22 balloons lifted off within ten minutes of each other in what balloonists call a "mass ascension".

Conditions were perfect, with clear, blue Wairarapa skies showing no hint of the rough weather forecast for coming days.

Pilots Ross and Mary-Lee Sale, of Auckland, have been coming to the fiesta for years and said it was "probably the best [balloon] meeting in the country". Wairarapa's topography made it ideal for ballooning, Mr Sale said.

"You can fly 360 degrees, depending on the winds. It's a big bowl, basically."

Hundreds of people turned out in the cool dawn air to watch the balloons' stately progress. Elise McDonald, 2, was with mum Angela and said she liked the balloons "because they fly up in the sky".

Niels Schot, 5, said the best thing was "they're colourful" while sister Frida, 6, said her favourite was the house-shaped balloon, "because it looks like a real house".

Her aunt Magdalena, 17, said wistfully she would love to go up in a balloon. "You could see all the area where I've lived and everything, it would be so cool."

The fiesta runs until Sunday and sees pilots from around the country and overseas compete in events testing their ability to read the wind speed and direction, as well as the chance for people to take rides.

After events in Carterton, Greytown and Martinborough, the fiesta culminates in the Trust House Night Glow on Saturday evening and the Henley Lake Challenge on Sunday morning, both in Masterton.

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- The Dominion Post

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