Balloonists win at awards

The Canowindra International Balloon Challenge has again performed well at the annual NSW Tourism Awards, picking up a Bronze award for this year’s event.

It marks the fourth time the challenge has picked up an award from the Tourism Board, picking up a Bronze last year in addition to Silver awards in 2013 and 2014.

Co-founder Jan Kerr was ecstatic to have picked up another award.

“We really partied,” she said, laughing. 

“The competition is very strong, especially in the festival and events [category].”

“To get another Bronze this year, after getting one last year, in such a strong field, makes us really happy.”

Mrs Kerr believed that the contribution of volunteers is crucial to the ongoing recognition the event – represented by herself, husband Graham Kerr and board member Colin Pryor at the awards – receives each year. 

“Most of the other finalists have paid staff that are doing the job and we’ve been running this for years just on volunteers and local people supporting the event,” she said. 

“I think that comes across very strongly.” 

Up to 10,000 people attended the Balloon Glow night each year, with hundreds of people attending throughout the week, and Mrs Kerr believes the event’s prestige means it contributes enormously to the Canowindra township. 

“They [the visitors] are spending money on all the businesses, they’re buying groceries, they’re buying fuel for their vehicles,” she said. 

“It really adds to the economy in a huge way.” 

The Central Western area performed strongly across all of the Tourism Awards, with recognition coming for festivals, services and accommodation, with awards going to regions like Mudgee, Bathurst Orange and Dubbo among others. 

It was something that the Western NSW Business Chamber was also keen to acknowledge.

“We were so pleased to see such a high percentage of the winners at the NSW Tourism Awards coming from Western NSW,” said Vicki Seccombe, Regional Manager of the Western NSW Business Chamber.  

“It truly highlights the strength of our tourism operators in our region. These awards are not easy to achieve.”

However, for the Balloon Challenge, they will quickly turn their attention to making next year’s festival better yet again, with early-bird pricing already available. 

“We’re trying to continually grow the event and make it stronger, better, more inclusive for everybody,” Mrs Kerr said, adding that the award only improves its prospects. 

“It shows the credibility of such a good event… I think it gives the town a sense of joy and pride.”