150-year birthday bash will long be remembered

Last updated 09:11 31/03/2014

KER-BOOM: The balloon army appear to be skittled by an overhead explosion – but in reality they were being quickly deflated while the fireworks display drew everyone’s attention to the heavens.

balloons over waikato
Mike Scott/Fairfax NZ Zoom
DAY FIVE: Waikato Times videographer went up in a hot-air balloon on Sunday on the final day of Balloons Over Waikato.

Balloons over Waikato

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A spectacle of flame and fabric filled Hamilton's night sky on Saturday as an estimated 80,000-strong crowd gathered on Waikato University's playing fields to watch the Nightglow.

The annual ballooning event helped mark the city's 150-year anniversary, as well as the university's 50th birthday, with a medley of rock songs and a birthday cake standing more than 29 metres high.

While the steadily-growing throng waited for darkness to fall, many took advantage of the numerous food stalls and carnival rides.

Low thundering drums accompanied the inflation of the giant balloons at 8pm, while the crowd, many armed with cameras and waving glow sticks, grew quiet in anticipation.

The Hamilton 150th Birthday Balloon soon towered over the rest, dwarfed only by the 33-metre high Rocketman.

And then the event began.

Illuminated by bursts of flame, each balloon became a visual instrument in a playlist of rock songs including, appropriately, Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire.

Australian balloonist Kerry Frankel said there was no mystery to why the event was such a big crowd-drawer.

"The spectacle of seven, eight and nine-storeyed globes glowing in the dark in a field set to music . . . People are quite surprised about how spectacular it looks."

The night finished with a massive fireworks display.

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- Waikato Times


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