Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Northampton Balloon Festival

Prior to competing in the first round of the UK Nationals at Billing Aquadrome, the management of the holiday park had already asked us whether we would be able to provide sport kite demonstrations for the Northampton Balloon Festival hosted by them later in the year. And with 'us', they meant Flying Fish plus Airheads, given that we are used to flying and demo-ing together.

So, for us, our first 'support act' for a balloon festival! Similar to when we flew at Billing Aquadrome at the Nationals back in May, the wind was challenging to say the least ... Horrible on Saturday: blustery, full of holes and bumps. And lighter but still very variable on Sunday. We had to have all our kites out and flew all bar the V2 at some point during the weekend.

Unlike at a kite festival, where we normally get 10-20 minute slots, we were asked to provide an hour long demonstration in the morning, and half an hour in the afternoon. To give you a feel for what we decided to do, here's the basic demo schedule we used over the weekend, which we tweaked as and when necessary:

* - Team warm-up: 5-human 'Fisheadz' team (in "Fish Finger" formation: AH - FF - AH - FF - AH) going through the standard STACK warm-up sequence. This to make sure we are aware of the conditions and to check we got the right kites on the lines for the current wind conditions.

* - Individual dual-line ballet to music: Peter did the honours, flying to Evanescence.

* - Individual quad-line ballet to music: Vee flying her Phoenix accompanied by Mozart. 

* - Pairs ballets to music: Flying Fish in the arena; 'Chariots of Fire', 'Adiemus' and 'Ruthless Queen' routines all came out.

* - How to fly a sport kite? Mick demonstrating the basics of flying a dual-line kite, followed by Vee doing the same for a quad-line kite. 

* - Second pairs ballet to music, flown by Keith & Vee to 'Another Way to Die'.

* - Team ballet to music, with tails, flown by Airheads (Peter, Keith, Vee); 'It's Got to be You'.

* - Mega-team: 'Fisheadz', in the "Fish Sandwich" formation (AH - AH - FF - FF - AH - AH) and to Crowded House. We decided against using tails, given the turbulent wind ...

Switching the mic around to whoever wasn't flying in the arena at that time, we provided our own commentary around all our demos, explaining what was going on. Several members of the public came up to us afterwards to ask questions about sport kites, or kite-flying in general, so it clearly struck a chord with some.

But what about the balloons, as this was first and foremost a balloon festival! Due to the wind conditions, the balloons could only fly once, early (6am) Sunday morning. When we woke up in our caravan on Sunday morning, I heard these regular 'whoomph' noises. It took a wee while for the fog of sleep to lift and realisation to kick in: what we heard were the burners; the balloons were launching! Quickly got dressed and walked over to the arena, where we watched the last dozen or so balloons take off. Wonderful sight in the early morning light!


Loads more pictures, mostly of the balloons, can be found here.

Picture credit of us flying as a pair and in the 'Fisheadz' team: Valerie Hancorn.

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