Valley fired up for big weekend

Balloons at dusk.
Balloons at dusk.

ALL eyes will be skywards in Northam this weekend as the 2015 National Ballooning Championship kicks off with a dusk celebration.

It�s been more than 30 years since Northam has had so many balloons in its airspace and the Avon Valley town is bustling with preparations for the big event.

Celebrations start this Saturday night with the Balloon and Glow Fiesta in Northam, where people can get up close to the colourful balloons, which will be inflated and glowing with the light of their burners.

Pilots from China, Japan, Russia, the UK and across Australia will compete over five days in the championship.

The event will decide which pilot will represent Australia in the World Championships, to be held in Saga, Japan, next year.

�These are the racing car drivers of ballooning, the best of the best,� events manager and professional balloonist Donna Tasker said.

Pilots from China, Japan, Russia, the UK and across Australia will compete over five days in the championship.

The event will decide which pilot will represent Australia in the World Championships, to be held in Saga, Japan, next year.

�These are the racing car drivers of ballooning, the best of the best,� events manager and professional balloonist Donna Tasker said.

�The competition will intensely test the skilfulness and expertise of the pilots in manoeuvring their balloons towards targets and goals in and around Northam in the Avon Valley over a 40km course.�

Flights are scheduled twice a day from Monday, August 31, to Friday, September 4, and competition tasks will be determined on the day, based on weather conditions.

Saturday, September 5, will be a highlight for spectators with the exciting Key Grab game, which is a highly skilled challenge where pilots race to retrieve a foam key mounted on a 10m pole.

The event will close with non-competitive flying on the Sunday.

�It will be spectacular, so we encourage people to see the balloons in action,� Ms Tasker said.

A number of community events will also be available for families during the week, including exhibitions, expos and performances.

The town is buzzing with anticipation for the event, which has not been hosted by Northam since 1984.

�To see so many people flying over Northam after all these years is going to be spectacular,� Ms Tasker said.

Daily competition tasks will be announced on Facebook and spectators are encouraged to keep an eye on the updates to see where the balloons will fly each day.