Pilots from throughout the world participated in the recent AGFA New Zealand Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and each went home with an unexpected gift guaranteed to evoke lasting memories of the occasion.
A limited edition commemorative calendar, assembled at the eleventh hour by AGFA, was presented to each of the Fiesta's 45 pilots during the official wind up of the boutique event. Featuring dramatic shots of the five day occasion, the calendar's back page featured individual head and shoulder shots of the pilots themselves.
Recounting the stream of thanks that followed the calendar presentations, AGFA Marketing Services Manager Robyn Pickerill confided the only problem she now faced was how to improve on the successful formula for next year. "The job had to be squeezed into a narrow time frame," she explained, "which limited the scope of shots to those taken within the first two days of the event."
The weather obliged and pristine mornings at the lake launch field form the back drop to many of the dramatic shots taken by AGFA clients. On the third morning of the Fiesta - while pilots vied for higher or lower wind streams in their quest to set new official distance and duration records - a graphics team in Auckland was poised over the final images of previous flights, scanning hard copies and sizing pictures to flesh out the evolving calendar's carcass.
Eighty-six personalized calendars were printed Friday afternoon, trimmed and bound Saturday and delivered the next morning in good time for their distribution at the pilots' Award Ceremony.
According to Ms Pickerill, veteran pilot supporters of the New Zealand Fiesta, as well as new-comers, appeared genuinely appreciative of the gesture which broke new ground in terms of sponsor initiatives. "We wanted to create something unique, something representative of the company and something that the pilots would value as a lasting memento," explained Ms Pickerill. "The technology in digital printing allowed us to print the units and personalize them using an AGFA Chromapress machine. Some of the photos in the calendar were originally taken using a digital camera for live down loading to the Internet via AGFA's Balloon Fiesta home page."
A further initiative, endorsed by balloonists throughout the AGFA New Zealand Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, saw a record $18,000 raised by volunteer Lions Club members for Camp Quality - a recreation and adventure program for children with cancer. Much of the money was raised on the balloon launch field through the sale of hot bacon and egg breakfasts from 6.00 in the morning. Tethered balloon rides were also offered in exchange for a gold coin donation and AGFA came to the party once again in bringing commercial hot air balloon pilot Steve Ireland and the Camp Quality balloon from Australia to further raise the profile of Camp Quality in New Zealand.
While providing many overseas balloonists with their first experience of the Antipodes, the AGFA New Zealand Hot Air Balloon Fiesta was also the scene of many reunions. Ashpole, Moroney, Dunnington, Vizzard and a string of pilots whose names have become synonymous with hot air ballooning arrived in Hamilton in search of the great escape. Shrugging off jet lag, each appeared to succeed in the serious art of mixing pleasure with pleasure over some of the world's most scenic countryside.
The dates of next year's AGFA New Zealand Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, from 1 - 5 April 1998, can't come too quickly for the city of Hamilton which is already gearing up for the annual influx of pilots and spectators. The most colorful event on the Waikato's annual event calendar, the five day Fiesta inspires a large community following. Children's balloon paintings and murals line the walls of the city's libraries and the search is on for hot air balloon memorabilia to display at the local Museum of Art and History next April. A food and wine festival - featuring leading New Zealand wines will once again complement the five day program and as in previous years children with cancer - will be the key beneficiaries of the Fiesta overall.
For more information about next year's AGFA New Zealand Hot Air Balloon Fiesta please contact the organizer, Graham Hannah of New Zealand International Hot Air Balloon Fiestas Ltd. Private Bag Hamilton, New Zealand. Phone 64-7-838-1621. Fax 64-7-838-2165. Email: