Belfast Telegraph

A load of hot air at Co Down balloon festival

By Amanda Poole

Hot air, and for a change not coming from our politicians, has been delighting thousands of people floating into Co Down for Northern Ireland's first balloon festival.

At least 10,000 people passed through the gates of the picturesque Moira Demesne for a fun family day out as the colourful creations took to the sky over the bank holiday weekend.

Festival-goers were busy taking photographs of the 30 spectacular balloons taking part and learning a little about this thrilling pastime.

Flying hot air balloons is the oldest means of human flight with the French Montgolfier brothers taking the first real craft up in 1783.

Palletways balloon pilot Chris Sanger-Davies has been in the business for 25 years and has more than 2,000 flight hours under his belt.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that people enjoy the thrill of ballooning and that those who join him in the sky love every moment of it.

"People are gobsmacked when they come up with us," he said. "They love it. It's like walking on water."

The stunning spectacle of the nightly fire and light show, known as the 'night glow' has been a big hit with visitors.

Hot air balloons have been lighting up the night as pilots ignite the burners and transform thousands of cubic cubic feet of balloon into giant light bulbs in the sky, synchronised to the sound of music.

Ballooning is weather dependent, so the wet and windy weather Northern Ireland is famous for has hampered things a little.

Despite that, organisers say they are keen to build on the success of this year's three-day festival and make it an annual event.

Andrew Kennedy, tourism development manager at Lisburn City Council, said yesterday's entrance tickets will also be valid for today.

"We've had great support from the Northern Ireland public," he said.

"The weather has not been on our side."

Mr Kennedy said people were enjoying themselves, having a good time and telling their friends about the festival.

"People have been asking the pilots questions and learning about ballooning," he added.

"We're also showcasing the best of local music talent and there is food, crafts, ice cream, a beer tent and a small funfair too.

"We hope to make this an annual event and want to thank everyone who has supported us."

Music acts performing today include Whanau and the Mike Wilgar Blues Band.

The festival closes with a third 'night glow' at 9pm tonight.

For further details visit www.northernirelandballoonfestival.com.

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