Balloon festival in jeopardy
Lift Off Levin will go ahead at Easter thanks to a private backer, but this could be the hot air balloon festival’s last launch, its founder warns.
Ballooning enthusiast Denis Hall said this year was the festival’s 10th, but funding of at least $20,000 for each festival would need to be secured for future years, to meet operating costs.
Last year’s festival did not go ahead due to bad weather, but in 2013 it attracted 13,000 people. About half were from outside Levin – mainly from Kapiti, Hall said.
A community trust that had helped fund the event in the past had folded, he said.
The organising committee needed funding to pay for security, toilets, rental of park facilities, roading contractors for traffic management, financial accounting services and to arrange entertainment.
Contributions were also made to cover about one third of the transportation costs, for balloonists to get their equipment to the festival.
Hall said Levin resident Helen Blake had made a contribution, which allowed them to secure 10 to 12 balloonists this year.
This would allow the backbone of the festival, the competition displays, to go ahead. However, one of the most popular events for spectators had to be left off the programme.
‘‘We haven’t made proper plans yet for a night glow, because we don’t have the money and we are not likely to get the money.’’
Hall hoped a last ditch sponsorship appeal could help.
‘‘ There’s no corporation in Levin that’s big enough, and we’re pretty confident that the council’s never going to put a significant amount of money into it. They put $20,000 into it, to start it.
‘‘We are going to invite families and businesses to sponsor a balloon. It’s about $1000, so they could have their name on the baskets.’’
Sponsors would be invited to be involved in crewing the balloons on the ground, with the possibility that flights might be offered where operators were able.
Hall said he and the organising committee had backed Lift Off Levin for 10 years, because of their love for the sport and the belief that the festival made a positive contribution.
After a major heart operation last year, Hall said he would be taking a step back next year.
‘‘It has given a hell of a lot to me, it has been a neat thing to do, but it has been huge amounts of work.’’
Hall said he believed the festival provided a lot of joy.
‘‘The balloons fly over town every day, and most evenings . . . and if you have a balloon festival in your town you don’t have to go anywhere to see it, you just have to look up.
‘‘It makes people who live outside the region see us in a different light.’’
Deflated: Lift Off Levin founder Denis Hall has backed the hot air balloon festival for 10 years, but says without backers it may run out of hot air.