Hot air balloons are inflated at Innes Common Park during the Balloons over Waikato Festival. © Hannah Peters

Balloons over Waikato: a showcase of splendour and colour

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They get to the point, in this part of the world, but the simple factual accuracy of the name of this event does not do justice to its colour, glamour and excitement.

And you thought balloons were quiet! Bud, this is the Waikato; they know how to put the ‘festive’ in ‘festival’ down this way.

Festival this is and Balloons Over Waikato has been running for over a decade now, a showcase of splendour and colour, in the form of these beautiful flying machines.

For five glorious mornings, in invariably sunny March, they lift off at dawn and soar heavenwards, a sight that is truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

If that all sounds a bit serene, in the evening the event stages the Nightglow, where the balloons are illuminated to music. Whoever would’ve thought to choreograph a balloon? Well, these guys did.

Just in case you’re still hanging for more hot-air action, they finish that off each evening with a good round or two of fireworks, which set off the glowing orbs just so. Seriously, it’s crazy.

The balloons themselves are an excuse for some very creative people to send their creative skills to dazzling new heights (sorry). We’re not just talking the old teardrop shape with a basket at the bottom: there have been racing car-shaped entries, a flying royal carriage, Dumbo the Elephant and, we tell no lies, flying pigs.

While it’s all about the spectators — some 150,000 plus gather for this event — you can make arrangements to be a passenger, too. However you get into it, you’ll realise it’s not just a load of hot air...

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