New Zealand's Breath of Hot Air: Balloons Over Waikato
新西蘭漢米爾頓的熱氣球節每年在三月底舉辦，為期4-5 天，參與的熱氣球來自世界各地。主辦者稱，雖然在新西蘭舉行，或許因為當地很多人熱衷與熱氣球活動，慢慢地在 18年的過程中演變為一個讓全世界熱氣球愛好者聚集的盛會，如今漢米爾頓熱氣球節的規模已屬南半球最大，每年吸引的全球遊客約13萬。
Hamilton, a small town on New Zealand’s North Island, hosts the annual hot air balloon festival in late March. The locals’ love of ballooning saw the inaugural Balloons Over Waikato Festival 18 years ago, with the event going from strength to strength in the years since, attracting attention from the international ballooning community. Hosting 130,000 visitors each year, Balloons Over Waikato has won the Best Waikato Event six times and is one of the largest community events in New Zealand.
As well as the classic hot air balloons, each year, old and young alike are excited to see the original collection of character balloons unveiled. This year saw characters like Bud E Beaver, Little Wizard and Piranha bringing to life a dream world filled with creativity and colour.
One of the highlights of the week is watching the balloons gather over the open spaces of the University of Waikato, lighting up in time to music hits and performing a dance of light. The grand finale is the stunning firework show, marking a splendid end to the festival.
At the break of dawn
New Zealand’s autumn climate is excellent for hot air ballooning as the sport is dictated by air temperature, wind direction and speed. Exposure to strong sunlight combined with the large burners used to create buoyancy can cause the air inside the balloons to overheat. This makes the balloons prone to turbulence, making early mornings and late evenings the ideal time for flying. Balloon pilots can only control the up and down movement of the balloon - they have no control over the direction. The uncertainty of where the balloon will finish adds to the fun and anticipation, making every ride a new adventure.
Originating from the United States
The first hot air balloon festival, the US National Hot Air Balloon Championship, took place in 1963. Although the festivals were originally only held in the States, the appeal spread quickly and extended to many countries around the globe. Balloonists travelled (and still do travel) all over America, Asia, Europe and Oceania to attend the many festivals that are held to celebrate this beautiful activity.
熱氣球嘉年華始於1963年的美國熱氣球盃 （US National Hot Air Balloon Championship），原本僅屬美國本土賽事卻極快速的拓展成全球比賽。評比結束之後，帶著榮耀與光環，參賽者會在全球各地參與超過百場的大型熱氣球嘉年華，走遍美洲、亞洲、歐洲、大洋洲。