Hot air balloons are always fascinating for me. The sheer size of it demands attention. It makes you long for the skies, to be up there, touching the clouds and braving the winds. I heard so many fun tales of people who ride hot air balloons, though I never knew all the technicalities that went behind it. That’s until the 21st Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

Hot Air Balloon Fiesta Only Happens in February

We can’t have hot air balloons festival anytime that we want. We were told that air and weather conditions are major factors in the success of hot air balloons. Here in the Philippines, the balloon festival happens only in February because it’s the coldest time of the year. This cold temperature is essential in helping the balloons inflate and float in the air. There’s only a short window time that the team can take advantage of so that the balloon can take flight.

We're favored with clear skies and cold morning. All set for the 21st Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

We’re favored with clear skies and cold morning. All set for the 21st Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

These two coast guard planes will take the sky divers in the sky. One of them carries the Philippine flag to official begin the festivity.

These two coast guard planes will take the sky divers to the sky. One of them carries the Philippine flag to official begin the festivity.

Filled with Air, Full of Colors

International teams participated in the fiesta. There were groups coming in from France, Switzerland, Germany and Japan. Each of the team first filled the envelopes with cold air. Hot air is then fed to the envelope once it’s had enough of the cold air.

Some of the balloons seen at the 21st Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

Some of the balloons seen at the 21st Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

It’s amazing to see the envelopes form into fun shapes and familiar faces. There was an animal, a car, and a cartoon character. But mostly they were of local brands. Each one is colorful though. The group of hot air balloons floating against the clear skies is truly a wonderful sight.

We would have preferred to see more balloons up in the air, but it's only this set and then some that were able to take flight.

We would have preferred to see more balloons up in the air, but it’s only this set and then some that were able to take flight.

Some balloons never made it to the air that day, despite the effort of its crew. The Coca-Cola blimp, though very impressive, just stayed on ground. Same fate with the car and the beagle.

Not Made to Be Enjoyable for All

I’ve been highly involved in similar events. The work of handling around 50,000 patrons, plus coordinating with the sponsors and performers are certainly not to be trifled with. Add to the fact that pretty much everything highly depends on the weather. So kudos to the team for that.

However, as a first time participant, I expected more. The long waiting time at the start of the show is fine. We understand that the teams were waiting for the perfect weather conditions to happen. But the activities that took place after that are of entirely different matter. I’ve heard negative comments about this event before. Now I know what they’re talking about.

Increase Display Screens or Monitors in the Field

The crowd can be as good as 50,000 strong, the event hosts mentioned it a couple of times. The field can take in such amount of people, all right. But to build a little stage at the far end of the field isn’t the best idea. Yeah, I get it, that it must be close to where the divers would land or whatever. But it’s size is so inadequate. That stage is only good for 5000 people.

They may also try to increase visibility of air shows on the ground, maybe through projectors or big screens situated at several places in the field. The crowd may be big, but if they can give their sponsors such large space to display and sell products, surely they can also have the same privilege. Since most activities are air shows, people on ground would have wanted a clearer view of what’s happening. The crowd will appreciate that more.

This twin tandem gave a spectacular air show during the event.

This twin tandem gave a spectacular air show during the event, though.

What of the skydivers doing acrobatics in the air, when you couldn’t see their moves clearly? Where’s the wow factor in that? How do the spectators share that experience? Do you expect people to be happy just by taking photos or videos of another person enjoying himself in the air?

That’s why most people just while away their time flying kites or going to the sponsor booths, instead of going to the stage and actually enjoying the lineup of activities that the host prepared. Some may have even went to other tourist attractions nearby. 

Still, organizers may argue that if they really want an awesome experience, they should have paid for the hot air balloon ride. To this, I say, you’re missing the point. What, you think all those people went there because they actually want to ride the balloons? That they can actually pay for that? No, these people want to be entertained with an air show. At least give us that.

Also, can you like have a display of at least 5 air crafts at a time? That’d be miles amazing compared to a single plane, taking up more divers in the air.

Make the Advertisers’ Balloon More Entertaining or Creative

We appreciate the A-380 during the show. But that’s a blatant advertisement. Same as the balloons of local brands. Maybe you can ask your advertisers to be more creative with their balloons, like the one that Coca Cola has. It did not fly, but the impact was there. Everybody saw Coca Cola, even though it’s Pepsi that has a booth on the ground. I got a more favorable brand experience with the soda brand, than with a local media station balloon that looks dirty and ready to retire any minute.

So to the organizers, maybe I’m asking for too much, but you can also ask yourself if you can just give us less. If you can just make good on the hot air balloon display, then please just focus on that. Don’t try to prolong the spectator’s day with activities that will not enrich their experience. It’s so hot out in the field. There were children and old people, too. Yes, the environment is something you can’t control. But you’re not giving the spectator’s any comfort at either.

Also, I know, that after 20 years, you’ve seen this pattern: Parking area full before the hot air balloon activity. Number of cars in the parking area reduced to 30% just after 9am. It’s time you do something about this.

Still, It’s Something to Look Forward To

I came to the event in a public joiners tour. Maybe next year, I’ll go on my own or arranged it with friends with a car. It’s really nice to see those balloons in the air. Check on this website for event updates.

As always, thanks for dropping by!