Over nine days in March every year, a kaleidoscope of more than 30 hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes fill Canberra’s sky. The biggest of its kind in Australia and in the top five globally, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular attracts spectators and balloons from around the world and is a staple festival in the annual Canberra events calendar.
But how much do you actually know about our beloved event? Here are five fun facts:
1. It started as a one-off.
In 1988, 50 hot air balloons were cast aloft to celebrate Canberra’s 75th birthday—marking the largest gathering of hot air balloons in Australia’s history. It was called the Canberra Balloon Festival and due to its popularity, has continued ever since—evolving into what is now known as the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.
2. The festival has seen many bizarre entries.
Notable balloons include the head of famous artist Vincent Van Gough, which flew in the 2004 festival, and ‘Mr Bup’ the turtle who participated in both the 2010 and 2013 events. There has also been a Darth Vader inspired entry in 2013, as well as a Simba the Lion balloon, Scottish bagpiper and a windmill and a tropical tree.
3. A giant whale balloon caused much controversy in 2013.
The Skywhale was a balloon designed by sculptor Patricia Puccini to celebrate the centenary of Canberra. It was revealed at the 2013 festival and received mixed reviews from the public due to its abstract nature and interesting aesthetic.
4. The public can go for a ride.
Unlike other hot air balloon festivals, the event grants attendees the opportunity to experience the magic of hot air balloons firsthand. However, please note that whilst spectating is free, the balloon rides are not.
5. One of the balloons crashed into Canberra’s Treasury Building in 2015.
Fortunately, no one was injured during the mishap—which was caused by an almost-collision with another balloon. The balloon however, suffered over $1000 worth of damages.
6. Balloons in the festival come from all over the world.
Participating balloons come from countries as far afield as Poland, Russia, India, China, UK, USA and from around Australia.
7. Canberra is the only city in the world that has a hot air balloon festival
Whilst it’s possible to fly over many cities in a hot air balloon, Canberra is the only city that has a major balloon event right at its heart.
8. Festival balloons are manufactured all over the world
A number of companies in Australia, England, Brazil, Spain and Czechoslovakia manufacture the balloons for the festival.
9. It costs up to $200,000 to make a shaped balloon
But you can pick up a standard balloon for around $40,000.
10. An average flight uses 100 litres of gas.
That’s propane gas – the same you use to fire up your BBQ…
7 Things you need to know about this year’s Canberra’s Balloon Spectacular Festival
- The 31st Canberra Balloon Spectacular festival will take place 10–18 March this year on the Lawns of Old Parliament House, King George Terrace.
- This year the festival will include a bright green Kerbie the Frog and a very colourful hummingbird.
- The balloons will start inflating daily at 6:15am, with most balloons launching at 7am sharp.
- Watching the event is free, but you can also purchase a ride in one of the balloons.
- There will be live music at the launch site for the entirety of the festival, featuring acts such as: Will Campbell, Matilda Rose, The Advocates, Chesterfield and Dom Lavers.
- A variety of food and drink options will also be available at the launch site, including coffee, breakfast foods, burritos, pancakes and juices
- Parking in the Parliamentary Zone is the best option if you’re driving to the event.
- Standard Transport Canberra bus timetables apply for the event. Visit act.gov.aufor timetables and routes.
For more information please visit enlightencanberra.com