Early organiser of Marti’s Canowindra Balloon Fiesta receives OAM

One of the early organisers of Marti’s Canowindra Balloon Fiesta Peter Vizzard was recognised on the Australia Day Honours List with an Order of Australia Medal for his service to hot air ballooning.

Mr Vizzard, the founder of Balloon Aloft, has a long association with ballooning in Canowindra having started flying in 1966 in the town known as the balloon capital of Australia. 

He gave an insight as to why Canowindra was originally picked as a destination for hot air ballooning.

“Canowindra was chosen because it has no major airport nearby,” Mr Vizzard explained.

“The Civil Aviation Safety Authority was very wary about balloons. It was a case of ‘if in doubt, stamp it out’.

“So it was initially chosen because there was no airport.”

Mr Vizzard founded Balloon Aloft in 1980 before he sold it to retire in 2007. 

He operated a flying school and offered passenger flights in Canowindra from 1978 to 1998.

Along with Frank Hackett-Jones, Mr Vizzard and his partner Judy Lynne were key figures in the establishment and running of the Marti’s Canowindra Balloon Fiesta for several years from 1995.

Peter Vizzard was awarded an OAM. The 1983 World Hot Air Balloon champion has a long association with ballooning in Canowindra. Photo: Krystal Sellars

Peter Vizzard was awarded an OAM. The 1983 World Hot Air Balloon champion has a long association with ballooning in Canowindra. Photo: Krystal Sellars

“Canowindra’s been very much a part of my ballooning life. I still get out there a couple of times a year,” Mr Vizzard said.

“I have very fond memories of Canowindra.

“It’s an ideal place for training for example. You can fly in almost any direction and its weather is reliable and predictable.

“Ballooning has been well received there over the years. It’s just a pity it’s a bit far from Sydney.

“The town did earn the title of balloon capital of Australia by meaning of the early days and the amount of flying that goes on there. It has a good history without a doubt,” he said.

Mr Vizzard, 72, flies mostly in events overseas these days ticking more and more countries off his list.

He identified France, Jordan and China as three countries which stand out the most.

“France is a lovely country to fly. The shadows, it has interesting features, vineyards,” Mr Vizzard said.

“I flew in Jordan quite a few years ago and it was bizarre. You think Australia has desert, it’s just sand with massive cliffs. If there’s a lunar or mars landscape that’s it.

“China was bizarre too. People have never seen a hot air balloon. If you fly across a town or village people would just flood out of their homes and chase the balloon,” he said.

Mr Vizzard is now based at North Rothbury near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.

He described hot air ballooning as a “magical experience”.

“It’s a new environment. I liken it to scuba diving,” he said.