Balloons over Waikato

Balloons over Waikato
Balloons over Waikato is an annual hot air balloon festival held over five days during autumn in Hamilton, New Zealand. A major iconic event in the Waikato Region, it attracts both local and foreign hot air balloon pilots.

The Balloons over Waikato festival, sometimes abbreviated as B.O.W, was founded in 1998. It is organized by the non-profit organization Balloons over Waikato Trust. Over the years, it has become New Zealand’s premier hot air balloon festival and one of the most popular events in the city of Hamilton and the Waikato Region. It attracts more than 130,000 spectators over five days, with an estimate 80,000 people attending the famous Night Glow.

Each day of the festival begins with a morning mass ascension at dawn. A spectacular event for the early birds, it comes with an added bonus. The first 2,000 people to arrive also get a free breakfast. The balloons are launched from Innes Common at Hamilton Lake. Weather permitting, they fly from 7.30 a.m. onward. Some spectators arrive earlier to watch the balloon inflation. Admission to the event is free.

Other events and activities featured in the program of Balloons over Waikato include paid balloon rides, a range of competitive activities for hot air balloon pilots, fundraisers for the current charity of choice, educational event at local schools, community visits, parties, live performances, and more. One of the festival’s signature events is the Smartrak Cash Bullseye Competition where the balloonists attempt to throw a marker into the bullseye to win a cash price.

The highlight of Balloons over Waikato is the spectacular Zuru Night Glow. A night glow is a popular event at many hot air balloon festival. It features glowing tethered balloons that remind of giant Chinese lanterns. Glowing in the dark, they put on a spectacular show accompanied by live music and followed by a dramatic fireworks display. The Night Glow takes place at the University of Waikato.

Balloons over Waikato

Photo: Arthur K.H. NG




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