Transfer of hot air balloon angers Taitung residents

HOT AIR::After some Taitung County netizens criticized Hualien for ‘stealing the bird from Taitung,’ the Hualien County Government postponed the balloon’s launch

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Jul 07, 2013 - Page 3

A big hit with the public since its first appearance in Taitung County last month, the “Angry Red Bird” hot air balloon is courting controversy by flying the coop and landing in neighboring Hualien County.

The Angry Red Bird hot air balloon — based on a character from the popular Angry Birds smartphone game — has been one of the highlights at this year’s Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta in Taitung.

The event, currently in its third year, started on June 1 and will run until Aug. 11 at Taitung’s Gaotai Park area.

Drawing a total of 880,000 visitors last year, the ballooning event has been referred to as “a miracle for Taiwan’s tourism industry.”

As a result, Hualien County and Greater Kaohsiung are also launching hot air balloon festivals this year.

The Angry Red Bird remained popular until the end of last month, when it wrapped up its stay in Taitung.

However, upon learning that the Angry Red Bird was scheduled to appear at the Hualien Hot Air Balloon Festival, some Taitung residents said their feelings were hurt.

Online posts by some Taitung residents slammed the Hualien County Government “for stealing the bird from them [Taitung].”

Some other Taitung residents responded by saying it is not a big deal, with comments such as: “It’s OK with me. The first time is the most important,” and “Hualien and Taitung are like brothers, so we should share our good fortune,” referring to both counties being neighbors in the nation’s east coast.

The Hualien County Government, in a bid to placate the indignation of Taitung residents, said that the hot air balloon’s first flight, was initially scheduled to lift off in Hualien on Friday, has been postponed to next week.

Meanwhile, separately yesterday in Greater Kaohsiung, hundreds of people lined up to make flights over the city during the area’s first-ever hot air balloon carnival.

The one-month festival, held beside Cheng Ching Lake (澄清湖), not only highlights hot air balloons, but also features a light show in the evenings, as well as a summer camp and an exhibition on the sport, the Greater Kaohsiung Government said.