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Canowindra Int' Balloon FestAdvertising Feature

Time to look to the skiesAdvertising Feature

SUPERB SIGHTS: The 2022 Canowindra International Balloon Challenge will take place from April 2-10.

As a spectator, the Supagas Canowindra International Balloon Challenge is a visual marvel.

Every year in April, the event, which is Australia's largest hot air balloon festival, draws visitors from all over to watch as hot air balloons gently float across the morning sky.

But up in the air, there's a whole lot more going on.

The 2022 Canowindra International Balloon Challenge is on from April 2-10, and while the weekends are focused on creating a visual spectacle in the sky for visitors to enjoy, the week is about competing.

A balloon is a 10-storey high bag of air that doesn't have a steering wheel. So it's not like a plane. You have to work with the wind conditions you've got. It's a bit like sailing but in three dimensions because we get to go up and down as well.

- Adam Barrow, vice president, Canowindra International Balloon Challenge

Competitive ballooning is a worldwide sport where hot air balloon pilots go head-to-head to compete in a series of challenges.

The challenges are all about accuracy, and each flight during the competition has different objectives, with teams scored based on their performance.

Adam Barrow, vice president of the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge organising committee, says to think of it like sailing-but in three dimensions.

"A balloon is a 10-storey high bag of air that doesn't have a steering wheel. So it's not like a plane. You have to work with the wind conditions you've got. It's a bit like sailing but in three dimensions because we get to go up and down as well," he said.

EXCITING: Australia's largest hot air balloon festival, draws visitors from all over. Photos: Supplied

Each team has a pilot who goes up in the balloon, with a support crew on the ground.

Given their reliance on natural conditions, the course for each round isn't set until that morning.

In Canowindra, Adam and a professional meteorologist, a safety officer, and a fellow balloon expert will get up at about 3.30am, look at the weather conditions, and set the task for the day, with balloons launching around sunrise.

The balloons all compete simultaneously, so they're subject to the same weather conditions, and Adam said it doesn't matter if it gets crowded up there.

"The balloons can bump into each other-it's like a big pillow fight. So that contact is quite common and not dangerous. And so they can all fly together, bounce off each other and move around a little bit," he said.

"That's what makes it so spectacular to watch because we have 15 balloons all arriving at the same spot within a few minutes of each other."

Spectators are welcome to watch the competition every day-the departure point will be announced on the event's social media pages around 6.30am.

If you catch the balloon competition, you're seeing the best of the best in the country.

This year it's the leading practice event for the Australian team going to the World Championships in Slovenia in September.

"There are six pilots representing Australia this year, and all six of those pilots will be at this event, just trying to sharpen their skills and use it as a training event to get them in the best shape before they then ship all their gear over to Europe," Adam said.

And the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge isn't all about competing.

On both weekends of the festival, the balloons will launch from downtown Canowindra at sunrise, weather permitting, so spectators can get up close to the action.

Then on April 9 from 3pm is the family-friendly Cabonne Community Glow, held at Canowindra Sports Oval.

The popular ticketed event sees the tethered hot air balloons light up the night sky, synchronising their flames to a music soundtrack.

The event also has live music and night markets with local food and wine.

For more information on the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge, or tickets to the Cabonne Community Glow, visit the website canowindrachallenge.org.au.

Rock stars set to get loudAdvertising Feature

SUPERSTARS: Eight-time ARIA Award winners Eskimo Joe will also be part of the line-up at the enLIVEn music festival. Photos: Supplied

The soundtrack of the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge is usually peaceful mornings with the odd roar of hot air balloon burners.

But the first night of the festival this year is set to get a lot louder. For the first time, the festival is adding a brand new event to the mix - enLIVEn music festival.

The one-day festival is going ahead on April 2, the first evening of the balloon festival, with gates opening from 1pm at Canowindra Sports Complex.

Headlining the event are two artists. The first? Rocker Jon Stevens, who is best known as the lead singer of Noiseworks, and for fronting INXS after the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence.

"Jon Stevens will be doing his Noiseworks and INXS Greatest Hits show. He's an absolute superstar, he's been around for 40 years, and he's an incredible performer," Canowindra International Balloon Challenge vice president Adam Barrow said.

ROCK ON: Jon Stevens, best known as the lead singer of Noiseworks, and for fronting INXS after the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence, will perform at enLIVEn.

They've also made the most of the Western Australia border opening, attracting eight-time ARIA Award winners Eskimo Joe.

"We pulled a real coup out of the bag getting Eskimo Joe. This is their only east coast show until September. They're flying in from Perth, doing the show and then flying back out again."

Also on the bill are country musician James Johnston, The Robbie Mortimer Band, and Clancy Pye.

We pulled a real coup out of the bag getting Eskimo Joe. This is their only east coast show until September.

- Adam Barrow, vice president, Canowindra International Balloon Challenge

Brass band Phat Brass will keep festival-goers entertained between stage changes and a range of local food and drink vendors and a bar.

Tickets are $65, which must be pre-purchased. To overcome potential internet signal issues on the day, attendees will be issued a wristband which they can pre-load with money to make purchases.

While the festival is all ages, it's best suited to over 15s, and an adult must accompany anyone under 18.

There will also be return buses running from Bathurst, Cowra, Forbes, Parkes, and Orange to make transport easy.

The event is supported by a grant from the NSW government's Regional Events Acceleration Fund alongside sponsors.

Adam said the committee is excited to bring a big new event to the region and hopes to make it annual.

"When everyone's been doing it a bit tough for two years, it's great to be able to take that money and support local communities," he said.

"Between the balloon challenge and the music festival, it's shaping up to be the biggest event Canowindra's ever seen in its history."

Tickets are available now from enlivenfestival.com.au.