Northam’s National Ballooning Championships postponed with competitors stuck in lowndown

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Northam was selected to host the National Ballooning Championships.
Camera IconNortham was selected to host the National Ballooning Championships. Credit: Shire of Northam

Australia’s National Ballooning Championships set to be held in Northam this month has been postponed until mid-next year after the “escalating COVID-19 situation” in the eastern states meant more than 80 per cent of competitors were unable to get into WA.

Northam was announced as the host location of the Ballooning Championships in March, with Shire of Northam announcing a raft of activities — including the inaugural Elevate Festival — to tie in with the national event.

More than 5000 people were expected to attend the event, organised by Northam Ballooning Events with support from Tourism WA and the Shire of Northam, from August 28 to September 4.

Shire of Northam president Chris Antonio said the Championships and the Elevate Festivals’ postponement was a blow to the local community but he remained hopeful the events would be able to go ahead in April or May.

“We were hoping for about 25 to 30 teams, and about 80 per cent of them were from interstate,” he said.

“It was decided that with the escalating COVID-19 cases in the Eastern States, there was a safety element and the high risk that the competitors couldn’t get here.

“We are still encouraging people to come to town this month, I have been encouraging people to ‘try before they buy’ and come to Northam now, and again next April or May.”

Shire of Northam president Chris Antonio.
Camera IconShire of Northam president Chris Antonio. Credit: Shire of Northam

Mr Antonio said the two months floated for the rescheduled date would “still work” because the weather conditions were similar to August and September.

“The summer storms should have passed but the winter fronts would not have started, the wind currents and weather patterns make it a good time for ballooning,” he said.

“While it is a beautiful yellow and green at this time of year, April and May are still months where the landscape looks quite beautiful.”

In a statement posted to the Northam Ballooning Events Facebook page last week, the committee said the “difficult decision” to postpone the event had been postponed “in light of the COVID-19 outbreaks across the nation and subsequent lock-downs, border closures and travel restrictions into WA”.

We were hoping for about 25 to 30 teams, and about 80 per cent of them were from interstate

.Chris Antonio

“Our overarching commitment is to the delivery of a world-class and inclusive Championships that all pilots around Australia are able to compete in,” the statement said.

“Rescheduling the Championships will allow pilots and officials currently impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks to participate in the event.

“We remain excited to host the National Ballooning Championships in Northam and will be back in touch with more information and specific dates in coming weeks.”

The National Ballooning Championships were set to include a week of flying, hot air balloon displays and events, with pilots from across Australia set to take part in the event — which is a qualifier for the World Championships.

It had been timed to coincide with the Shire’s Elevate Festival at the Northam Trotting Track on August 28, which includes a number of ballooning themed activities, food and beverage options, markets, music and entertainment for the entire family including a ‘Balloon Glow’.

Mr Antonion said the Elevate Festival would be held in the same week as the National Ballooning Championships next year.

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