Balloons Over Waikato's Nightglow goes without a hitch
The finale of the 2017 Balloons Over Waikato went off without a hitch.
Thousands of people used the park-and-ride bus system set up to make entry and exit from the University of Waikato grounds a seamless Zuru Nightglow experience.
They started arriving at 4pm and, as the evening ended at 9pm, the crowd of around 80,000 quietly melted away.
Once the expected drizzle in the late afternoon eased, conditions cleared and the weather improved.
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It was Hannah Taylor's first Zuru Nightglow and she was impressed.
"It was a lot bigger than I thought. I thought they set it up very well, with lots of volunteers.
"I was really impressed with how they did it. They had it really well set up with park and ride. I was particularly impressed with the lost kids tent. Volunteers in red shirts gave parents a wristband to write on."
The same volunteers kept their eyes out for kids separated from their parents and took them to the tent.
"There were the old, the young, lots of families, lots of kids, lots of teenagers hanging out with their friends. Lots of people brought their dogs.
There was plenty for the kids to do, since a little rollercoaster, teacups and other rides were set up in the playing fields. There were also food stalls, plus the huge cordoned-off area where the balloons were.
"It was really nice to see a good cross-section of the community there.
"We saw some police around, but it wasn't a heavy police presence."
Taylor said the main event - where 17 balloons light up in the dark, choreographed to music - was wonderful.
"There were snippets of different songs for 15 or 20 minutes. The best was YMCA - it was funny. It made me laugh.
"Plus they had those flame-thrower boxes lined up and going off to music. It was really cool. You could tell people were enjoying themselves."
She said the fireworks were also great, and she particularly liked the fact that while they were setting up the fireworks, the organisers got the crowd to do the Time Warp.
Balloons Over Waikato managing director Michele Connell said it was the perfect end to a challenging week.
"I think it was challenging from the weather perspective. It's never easy when you're hoping for flying weather and the weather's against you.
"That's why it was so heartening to get a fantastic Zuru Nightglow."
Connell said it was unfortunate the Black Falcons were unable to fly with the clouds too low, so the evening lacked the planned aeronautical display.
On Sunday morning, the pilots had their last ascension from Inness Common in Hamilton, but did not take to the air.
"It was just too windy, and if they had gone up, they would have have headed straight for Raglan," Connell said.
She said all the overseas pilots want to come back with another "special shape" next year.
"One pilot said they had never seen a night that was as amazing as ours. They thought it was just spectacular."