Wed, Feb 27, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Taiwanese travel to Australia for big balloon festival

Staff writer, with CNA

Two Taiwanese hot air balloonists set off for Australia yesterday to take part in a balloon festival in Canberra in which they will fly the national flag.

Wu Chin-yeh (吳金曄), the nation’s first female hot air balloonist, and Lin Yuan-ting (林沅霆) are the key members of a hot air balloon team from Taitung County that will attend the 2013 Canberra Balloon Spectacular, which will take place from March 10 to March 18. The team is headed by Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭).

The event is the largest hot air balloon festival in the southern hemisphere, Wu said.

“Every day, 40 to 50 hot air balloons will take to the skies,” she said.

“I’m happy to be one of the first Taiwanese to take part in the event,” the 30-year-old US-trained balloonist said.

Huang said it will be the first time a Taiwanese hot air balloon has participated in such a big international event, adding that he will carry the national flag while he is aloft.

In recent years, hot air ballooning has mushroomed in Taiwan. Taitung is one of the most popular spots for the sport and the Taitung County Government established the nation’s first hot air balloon school on Feb. 19.

Touting Taitung as “the home of hot air balloons” in Taiwan, Huang said that the county government has sent several local balloonists to the US for training.

The county also held a hot air balloon festival last summer, drawing about 880,000 visitors and creating business opportunities valued at nearly NT$2 billion (US$67 million), according to official data.

During the festival, which took place from June 26 to Sept. 2, about 20,000 people paid NT$500 each to go up in tethered hot-air balloons, which were attached to the ground and could not drift away on the wind.

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