Donation saves balloon festival

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 07:27 10/03/2014
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A scalpel nearly deflated this year's Lift Off Levin, but the popular Easter ballooning festival has been saved by an eleventh-hour donation.

The event, which returned to the skies in 2013 after a year off, has been run over the years by Denis Hall, who is the only person in the town qualified to be a flight director for what is now classed as an "aviation event" and is subject to Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

But Mr Hall became ill in May 2013 and had open heart surgery on January 6 to replace a valve and construct a bypass. Uncertainty around whether he would recover in time threw the 2014 event into turbulence.

"We couldn't make up our minds about what to do and in the time I was sick we hadn't done the amount of organisation we needed to or any of the fundraising that makes it happen.

"Some of the balloonists began to make other arrangements, which was fair enough.

"Three weeks ago we made the decision to cancel it, but the town wasn't having any of that," Mr Hall said.

A "generous donation" from Levin woman Helen Blake, widow of Collis Blake, had allowed the organising team to reconsider the cancellation, Mr Hall said.

It would be a smaller event than usual, but it was crucial the Horowhenua public supported it to ensure it was bigger and better next year, he said.

"Owning Easter is very important to the future of the event and that's one of the reasons we were so reluctant to cancel. Easter is when we generally get the settled weather, it's all to do with the full moon.

"We have 10 balloons booked to come and are waiting for confirmation from a couple of others.

"The whole thing will be the same as usual - the first time we had the event it had nine balloons and that didn't seem to be an impediment to its success."

Mr Hall said he was still not feeling "100 per cent" but would be in and around the event in a limited form.

"I'm thinking it'll be a little bit more of a low key."

A mass ascension of balloons would take place on Good Friday and the most popular public event, the nightglow, was likely to be held in Levin Domain for the first time, rather than Donnelly Park.

It would be in its traditional Easter Saturday evening timeslot, with balloons inflated about 6pm, he said.

A price rise for the event was probable as a result of commercial realities, Mr Hall said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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