By YVONNE O’HARA
Alexandra could see some spectacular high-flying visitors in September and next June, if Elaisa Chapman has her way.
She, along with colleagues Jo O’Connor and Michelle Wallis, want to use the airspace above Alexandra and launch a hot air balloon festival, tentatively called the “Southern Air Fiesta”, at the airport next June.
The owner of Central Events, Mrs Chapman spoke at the Alexandra Business Group’s breakfast meeting last Friday about her plans and the need for seed funding and sponsorship.
“The festival will be held in conjunction with Matariki celebrations,” she said.
“It will be the southernmost balloon festival in the world.
“There will be balloon rides from commercial operators, sport balloon races and possibly an inflated balloon available for people to walk through, and a ‘Night Glow’ night market at the airport.
“We will have balloons lighting it up.”
Hugh McLellan, of Sunrise Balloons in Queenstown, was the initial point of contact and had helped start the communication with the Balloon Aviation Association of New Zealand, Mrs Chapman said.
“Support from Central Otago Flying Club has also been obtained.
“I’m very excited about its future. I just need to get it off the ground and we would hope it will be as big as the Wairarapa festival is, after three years.”
Carrick McLellan, a pilot with Sunrise Balloons, said the proposal was “pretty positive”.
“It would be the only one in the South Island,” Mr McLellan said.
Balloon festivals are held in the Wairarapa, Levin and the Waikato.
The annual five-day “Balloons over Waikato” festival in Hamilton attracts more than 50 balloonists and about 130,000 people.
Mr McLellan said the weather needed to be pretty calm to fly.
“September should be pretty good, and June should be as well as long as we can avoid the foggy stuff that hangs around – but it should be relatively calm.”
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan was at the meeting.
“The prospect of a balloon festival in Alexandra and especially the ‘Night Glow’ market proposed has a lot of appeal and confirms again the value to the community of the investment made on behalf of the community by the council in the Alexandra airport,” he said.
Mrs Chapman said three North Island balloonists would be bringing their craft down in September to hold a “taster” event with a race and would be providing commercial flights from Pioneer Park.
“The balloons fly between the airport and various schools, where they will drop a sandbag into shopping trollies.”
She is looking for funding to contribute towards the balloonists’ costs and provide support, as well as sponsorship for next June’s event, and has launched a “Give a Little” page.