Balloon fiesta fills skies with colour

18:17, Mar 13 2014
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Pyper Stalker, 2, with dad Lindsey Stalker, came to watch the mass balloon ascension from the Pioneer Grounds in Masterton at dawn today.
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From left, Angela McDonald with daughter Elise, 2 and son Nicky, 4 and Vanessa Carson with daughter Aurora Stalker, 4, at the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta in Masterton this morning.
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Martin Schot, with Janos, 4, wife Gerda, Caleb, 1, Frida, 6, Niels, 5, and Gerda's sister Magdalena Holl, 17. The family went to the Pioneer Grounds in Masterton to take in the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta before heading off to school this morning.
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Veteran balloon pilot Rob Noble works the burner high above Masterton during the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.
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A total of 22 balloons from around New Zealand and overseas lifted off within 10 minutes of each other at the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.
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Balloons rise into a clear morning sky above Masterton this morning.
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Ballooning pioneer Brian Boland of Vermont, USA inflates his balloon at the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta in Masterton today.
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Balloons float over Masterton during the mass ascension to start the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.
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Floating above Masterton with other balloons is one of two unusually-shaped balloons at the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning - a "flying house", equivalent in height to a seven-story real-life building.
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Balloons stand out against the Tararua range and clear skies during the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.
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Balloon pilot Rob Noble, who lives in California, enjoying a view of Masterton during the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.
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Balloons float above Masterton this morning.
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Perfect weather in Wairarapa this morning for the launch of the balloon fiesta.
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A total of 22 balloons lifted off together from Pioneer rugby grounds in Masterton this morning.
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A balloon seen from above over Masterton streets during the launch of the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta this morning.

"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".

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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.

The Dominion Post