Balloons over Waikato is an annual hot air balloon festival that is held in Hamilton in early autumn.
This free event, which is now in its 17th year is running from today Wednesday March 16th until Sunday March 20th.
This morning the festival kicked off with the Hamilton Mass Ascension, with a mass inflation of the balloons at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake. Unfortunately due to the fog the balloons did not take off.
There are four special shaped balloons in the festival this year – the Resene Ele-fantastic Pea-nut Elephant, Baby Dino, Race Car, and Princess Carriage. There are over 30 hot air balloons with pilots from USA, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.
There are plenty of opportunities to see the balloons over the next four days. On Thursday there is the Wel Energy Trust Breakfast at Dawn at Innes Common at Hamilton Lake at 6:30am. A free breakfast is offered to the first 2,000 visitors as they watch the balloons inflate. The balloons will also be visiting several local schools on Thursday.
On Friday the balloons will take off again at 7:30am from Innes Common. In the evening the balloons will visit Tokoroa (Balloons Visit South Waikato, 6pm – 8pm, Tokoroa War Memorial Sports Ground) and Te Kuiti (Balloons Visit Te Kuiti, 6pm – 8pm, Te Kuiti Domain). On Friday night in Hamilton city there is the City Burn & Markets between 6pm and 8pm at Garden Place.
The Smartrak Cash Bullseye Competition, will be held on Saturday morning at Innes Common, where balloon pilots will attempt to throw a marker into a bullseye to win $1,000. Zulu Nightglow is held on Saturday evening, between 4pm and 9pm at the University of Waikato. This is the biggest event of the festival and includes food, live entertainment, carnival rides and games, and the Balloon Glow Show, which features the balloons lighting up to music. The night ends with a fireworks display.
The final morning will see the balloons take off for one last time from Innes Common at Hamilton Lake.
It is amazing sight to see these balloons, so if you miss the festival this year check out 2017, planning is already under way.