Assistant-director of the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge Adam Barrow labelled the crowd at Saturday night’s Balloon Glow and Night Markets as the largest he’d seen in the event’s history.
Barrow estimates eight to 10 thousand people entered the gates at the Canowindra Showground, however he is eagerly waiting to here the exact figure in coming days.
Unfortunately for the thousands that were there the two main attractions for the balloon glow, Kermie the Frog and Jewel the Hummingbird, were unable to participate due to an inconvenient strong breeze.
Regular balloons and the heart shaped balloon were able to light up the sky, however, for a spectacular 10 minute show.
“That afternoon the winds were pretty strong but it died right down before the scheduled time. As the burners went up it picked up again,” assistant-director of the event Adam Barrow said.
“It was pretty energetic. The balloons struggled to stay inflated. The shapes couldn’t handle it, the heart was up but the Frog and the Hummingbird don’t like the wind. They filled with cold air but the breeze flattened them.
“The pilots did an amazing job to keep them up for as long as they did. That was right at the top end of the operating safety window.”
Giving an indication of the sheer size of the event, the action from the night glow and markets, and flights on Friday and Saturday morning were broadcast live by reporters and production staff from China’s Xinhua News Agency to a potential crowd of more than two million people in China and Australia.
“There was a massive crowd. There was a lot of people which is pleasing to see,” Mr Barrow said.
“It’s the biggest I’ve seen. I haven’t seen the numbers yet but I’m really interested to see how many there were.”
Two-time world champion American pilot John Petrehn flew his way to victory in the week-long competition with Sydney-based pilots Andrew Robertson finishing second and Sean Kavanagh third.
All three will now compete at the World Championships in Austria during August.
“We flew nine mornings in nine days. The internationals couldn’t believe it,” Mr Barrow said.
“We were really lucky with the weather throughout the week. Canowindra [weather] is always good but we were really lucky.”
The Key Grab on Sunday morning attracted a huge crowd at the Canowindra Sports Oval, however no pilot was successful in picking it up.
Petrehn and Australian pilot Paul Gibbs came closest missing by about 12cm.
Mr Barrow, who couldn’t be happier with how the event unfolded, said he’ll back again next year hoping to help see further improvement.
“It was a really good event. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all went and with the support from the farmers, sponsors, volunteers, the public, the competitors. Everything was ideal.
“We need to make sure the event remains true to its roots. We need to maintain its authenticity and keep it regional. We’ll look at feedback on entertainment and prices and stuff like that when it comes in. You need to keep improving.
“Onwards and upwards,” he said.