By Michelle Anne P. Soliman
THIRTY-ONE hot air balloons will ascend under the optimum wind, weather, and visibility conditions at 5:30 a.m. this weekend. Colorful hot air balloons — including special-shaped balloons of cartoon characters and an international landmark — will fill the sky at the Lubao International Balloon and Music Festival in Pampanga.
The festival started in 2014 when interested balloonists were scheduled to arrive in the country for the annual hot air balloon festival in nearby Clark which did not push through that year.
“The municipality of Lubao took over and hosted the balloonists for a festival in Pradera Verde on April 10-14, 2014. This was also because the test flights revealed how ideal Lubao is for hot air balloon flights,” event organizer Rambo Ortega told BusinessWorld in an e-mail. “The goal is to promote the municipality of Lubao and the province of Pampanga as a destination for hot air balloons and more.”
The festival was initiated by the municipality of Lubao, in cooperation with the Arts, Culture and Tourism Office of Pampanga (ACTO), and with support from the provincial government of Pampanga.
Now on its fifth year, the Lubao International Balloon and Music Festival — themed “Going Five and Up” — will be held from March 23 to 25 at Pradera Verde. Five local and 26 international participants are set to fly during the three-day festival. It was recently integrated with a music festival, with evening performances by local artists as a complement to the balloon flight during the early mornings.
BALLOON FLIGHTS AND MORE
This year, eight of the 31 hot air balloons come in unique shapes including Brazil’s Cristo Redentor and Rat Cheese, Turkey’s Bobo the Lobster, the UK’s frog balloon, Germany’s Olaf the Clown, Canada’s Alien Rocket, Colombia’s fish balloon, and USA’s Owlbert Eyenstein.
According to Mr. Ortega, flight preparations are done simultaneously and the actual balloon flights will depend on the wind.
Aside from the early morning balloon flights, additional attractions and activities at the festival include: off road and rally cross where guests may drive off-road while assisted by professionals; a car show displaying sports and vintage cars; paramotor shows for the entire day; ultralight plane flights where guests may pilot the plane under the supervision of professionals; a fireworks display; and the evening concerts.
“The goal is to make this event grow more and more so it becomes something that people will always look forward to every year in Pampanga,” Mr. Ortega said of the tourism outlook for the province, adding that hosting the festival would “encourage locals to invest in hotels, resorts and tourism infrastructures.”
Guests may buy tickets — at P300 per day — on site or purchase them online through www.smtickets.com.