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    Seven hot air balloons from six countries fly over Pollachi in the second edition of TNIBF

    Pollachi is gearing up to welcome the second edition of the Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival (TNIBF) after it bagged the honours to host the first ever international hot air balloon festival in South India last January. The five-day event, starting on January 12, is being organised by the Chennai-based Global Media Box and Camping Retreats of India and the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department. “One idea behind this festival is tourism development. Another is to create awareness about the first aircraft before the aeroplane was invented,” says Benedict Savio, director of Global Media Box.
    “We have been successfully conducting balloon festivals in many countries and it was quite natural that we wanted to showcase a spectacle of this nature on our home turf. Pollachi was ideal not only from a technical point of view but also as it is scenic and appealing. Also, ballooning needs good landing space and roadways for the chase truck to reach the landing space of the balloons and Pollachi has all this,” Savio adds. The first edition of TNIBF saw a participation of four balloons. “This year, we have tried bringing in more balloons than the first edition. We have ensured a bigger space by choosing the Sakthi Mill ground as the venue.” The 2016 edition will feature a total of seven balloons. The balloons are brought from six different countries including India, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. The three special shape balloons include the Angry Bird balloon from the USA, the bee with a yellow jacket from Brazil and Buzzy, also from the USA. The balloons are 100 feet tall, which is equal to the height of a 10-storey building. The weight of the normal balloons is around 500-600 kgs while the special ones weigh up to 800 kgs. They are transported by a truck after being shipped via containers by air or sea. “We have specially trained pilots coming down from countries such as Brazil, France, Netherlands, the USA and one from within the country as well,” shares Savio. The balloons will be flown at a height of 1,500ft for free flights (25mins — one hour) and 100ft for a tethered flight where the balloon would be tied to a rope and riders can enjoy the flight for five to 10 minutes.
    The festival also features different contests such as balloon colouring for school children. “We will be conducting a competition for the pilots as well,” says Savio. We also hear that there will be a balloon glow party on January 14 at the grounds of KCT College.
    Entry free for visitors. Rs 15,000 per head for a free fly ride and `300 for tethered ride. At Sakthi Mill ground, Pollachi. Details: tnibf.com

     — Rini Baby Thottil

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