18 November 2021 | Written by Bachcare Holiday Homes

A Guide To The “Balloons Over Waikato” Festival

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Balloons Over Waikato – History and Guide

Hot air balloon festivals, where colorful balloons take to the skies by the dozens, happen worldwide each year. 

These festivals include a variety of impressive balloon shows, and they also educate attendees on the traditions and customs of ballooning. Balloon festivals are typically multi-day events that include food, music, and souvenirs.

The Balloons Over Waikato festival is an annual event that takes place in Hamilton, New Zealand. This five-day festival began in 1999 and has continued yearly ever since.


History of Balloons Over Waikato

balloons over waikato night shot
Credit: Flickr

The Balloons Over Waikato Trust have run the festival since 1999. 

This five-day event takes place at Innes Commons at Hamilton Lake, and draws in more than 130,000 spectators each March. Balloonists come from all over the world to participate in various events, offer balloon rides, and bond. 

The balloons in the Balloons over Waikato festival run a full spectrum of designs. There are classic teardrop-shaped balloons in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns and shaped balloons that depict the favorite animals and characters of the spectators. 

For example, you might come across a giant butterfly floating next to the inflated head of Darth Vader.

Balloons Over Waikato has gained several awards and recognitions in its 20-plus years. 

  • Voted Best Waikato Event by the residents of Hamilton
  • Rated as a Must Do in the Waikato calendar of events
  • Best Established Community Event in New Zealand in 2015 at the NZAEP Awards
  • Best Not for Profit at the Westpac Business Excellence Awards in 2008
  • In 2019, the City Burn Event was recorded as a summer month highlight

Events at Balloons Over Waikato

balloons over waikato events

Spectators at the Balloons over Waikato festival have the opportunity to participate in many events. Here are some of the events you can find at the festival. 

The Hamilton City Council Opening Fiesta

The Opening Fiesta begins at 7 am at Innes Common. It is the first opportunity for spectators to see the balloons take off.

The CBD Walk Thru Balloon

During the CBD Walk Thru, you can walk through a real hot air balloon in exchange for a donation to Life Education Trust. The Walk Thru is available at Garden Place from 4:00-5:00 pm each day of the festival, except for the final day. This activity is especially popular with children.

The Grassroots Trust Lift Off

Day two of the Balloons Over Waikato Festival includes toy giveaways, balloon shows, and family-friendly activities. 

Well Energy Trust Muffins in the Morning

On day three of the festival, the first two thousand attendees will receive a free muffin and fruit to start the day. This event begins at 7 am at Innes Common.

First Credit Union Fun Friday

Starting at 7 am at Innes Common, the First Credit Union announces lift-offs, offers games, and awards prizes.

Balloons Vista Waipā

From 6:00-8:00 pm on Friday, the Waipā Home of Champions hosts the Balloons Vista Waipā at Mighty River Domain at Lake Karāpiro. This event allows spectators to explore balloons inside and out. There are also games for kids and food options for the whole family.

The Base Basket Burn

From 6:00-8:15 pm at The Base in Te Rapa, festival guests can enjoy dinner and a live performance by The Monroes while watching the basket burn at 8:00.

Pilot Cash Grab Spectacular

During this 7:00 am event at Innes Common, pilots will attempt to grab $1,000 in cash from the top of a pole.

The ZURU Nightglow

The Nightglow is the highlight of the Balloons Over Waikato festival. Held at The University of Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday evening, this event includes live music, family activities, food, and rides. The evening closes out with fireworks and The Glow Show. 

During the Glow Show, which begins at 8:00 pm, balloons will put on a show of sound and light that is choreographed to live music. 

After the show, the spectacular Te Waiora Waikato will perform, and you can see the Resene Colour Blast Fireworks Extravaganza to round out the night.


Frequently Asked Questions 

Below, you can find answers to some of the most common questions asked about hot air balloons.

What are hot air balloons made of, and how are they inflated?
Balloons, also known as bags or envelopes, are made of ripstop material, which is lightweight and coated to prevent leaks.

To inflate the balloon, the balloon will be put on the ground and connected to the basket, lying on its side. Next, a fan adds air to the hot air balloon to inflate it. Then the heated burner will be turned on, which allows the air to heat up. The hot air causes the balloon to rise off the ground, bringing it and the basket upright.
How fast can hot air balloons go, and can they be steered?
Because they have no motor, hot air balloons only travel as fast as the wind will take them. A balloon can’t be steered, but there are ways of ascending and descending by releasing gas.
How does a balloonist get back to base after a landing?
While in flight, a chase vehicle follows the hot air balloon. This vehicle follows the balloon until it lands.
Do you need a license to fly a hot air balloon?
In many countries, there are written and practical tests required before you can earn your balloonist license.

The aviation authority of each country sets testing requirements for hot air balloon licensing. For example, in the United States, that authority would be the Federal Aviation Administration. In New Zealand, however, there are no licensing requirements for flying a hot air balloon.
How high can a hot air balloon go?
As with any vehicle, a balloon’s distance and altitude capacity are dependent on the amount of fuel in its tank. Balloons generally fly between 500 and 1000 feet above the ground and stay in flight for a few hours.

Hot air balloon festivals draw thousands of spectators annually. The Balloons Over Waikato festival is no exception. With its numerous family-friendly events and vibrant sights, it’s undoubtedly one of the best must-see events in New Zealand. 

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