Balloons Over Waikato skies all this week starting today



The theme for Balloons over Waikato is Welcome Back (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, March 14, 2023

Hamiltonians woke up bright and early this morning and welcomed a cold morning with great enthusiasm to what has become an iconic event for the general public on the annual calendar in both Hamilton and the Waikato Region. Six times voted Best Waikato Event by the public of Hamilton, this event is a ‘Must Do’ in the Waikato events calendar.

Balloons over Waikato is New Zealand’s premier hot air balloon festival. Held annually, this five-day iconic event is arguably the most popular in the city. It attracts balloonists from all over New Zealand and around the world who come to experience the fun, friendship and warmth that this balloon-friendly city provides and to demonstrate their skills in a range of competitive activities.

Residents all over the city wake up to look at the sky and children headed to school have a blast when they see the morning sky filled with balloons floating about, welcoming the morning sun with them.

Over 130,000 spectators enjoy the unique site of balloons ascending through the Waikato each year, from 7.00 am every morning to Hamilton’s biggest night out at The ZURU Nightglow, where the balloons glow to orchestrated music finishing with the best fireworks display in town, the SkyCity Hamilton Fireworks Extravaganza.

First Morning of Balloons over Waikato Morning flying (Photo Supplied)

Theme for 2023

The Balloons over Waikato Trust is a non-profit organisation and has been successfully running this event since 1999. General Manager Michele Connell said that preparation has been busy, but she is pleased to be able to finally run a full event again this year after Covid 19 restrictions made the event restricted.

“Our theme this year is welcome back. So that is welcoming back our shapes, welcoming back our international pilots and welcoming back everyone,” she said.

Mayor Southgate, who attended the morning fly-off on the first day of the festival mentioned online, “Great start to the day. Balloons over Waikato at the Council supported opening fiesta. The best thing was the noises of delight from the children watching the balloons ascend over our beautiful lake, especially when they saw the sloth and tiger fly by.”

Balloon Walkthrough at Garden Place will be on Thursday, March 16, 2023 (Photo supplied)

Morning flight

This year’s morning flying from Innes Common at Hamilton Lake would see two Special Shaped Hot Air Balloons this year. The team from Balloons over Waikato said, “we have two gorgeous Shapes joining us from the USA; Tico the Sloth and Tiger as well as beautiful balloons from around Australia and New Zealand.”

The balloons will be flying each morning of the event from Innes Common. This is a wonderful opportunity to get up close to the balloons and watch the teams in action as they prepare the balloons for flight.  The majestic display of colours, shapes and enormous size along with the precision of the teams in action makes it a spectacle. watching the balloons leave the ground and soar across the city is complemented by cheering from the crowds.

With different sponsored events each morning, the visitors get to take part in games and activities, win prizes, enjoy the balloons and make the morning memorable for the children.

Basket Burn will take place on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the Base, Hamilton (Photo supplied)

Zuru Night Glow

The ZURU Nightglow, which is the biggest night of the festival is marked with many on-stage performances with four hours of live entertainment, carnival rides and games, food trucks and vendors and the highlight of the night is the glorious orchestrated hot air balloon glow, that will light up the night sky, culminating in the SkyCity Hamilton Fireworks extravaganza.

This year the Zuru Night Glow is at the venue where it first began, The Claudelands Oval.

The venue has already reached its capacity for The ZURU Nightglow, and there are currently no more tickets available, with 25,000 tickets booked online.

But for all those who have missed out on the ticket registration, a live streaming of the Glow Show has been arranged to watch online.

A Park & Ride service is also being provided for the visitors wherein they can get free bus tickets along with their ZURU Nightglow entry ticket.

Other highlights

On Thursday 16 march, Hamilton city centre will have live music with Scotty Stone from 4 pm to 7 pm at the garden place, along with a unique experience walking inside a real hot air balloon for a gold coin donation to the Waikato rescue helicopter.

On Friday, 17 March 2023, from 6 pm to 8:15 pm, The Base, Te Rapa will have live music from’ The Monroes’ as they accompany our hot and fiery basket burn from 7 pm. There will be food and activities for the visitors.

‘Balloons visit Waipa’ will take place on Friday, 17 March 2023, from 5 pm to 8 pm at the mighty river domain, lake Karapiro, where the balloons will come to Lake Karapiro with food and entertainment for the whole family.

Ms. Rachel Lee, a mother of two, said “Balloons over Waikato are a family event which we keenly look forward to. Although we missed registering for the Zuru Night Glow this year, we are definitely going to head out for the morning events so that the children can enjoy the Balloons.”

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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