Saga International Balloon Fiesta
Saga International Balloon Fiesta is a hot air balloon festival that is held in the beginning of November in Saga prefecture in northern Kyushu every year. About 100 balloons from all over the world participate in the flight competition and the night lighting event. Along with the Karatsu Kunchi Festival, which features massive parade floats at the same time of the year, Saga Balloon Fiesta is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Saga.
In 1978 Saga Balloon Fiesta started as a small ballooning event with 5 balloons in Fukuoka. Over the years, it grew into an international balloon festival with more than 100 balloons from 35 countries, attracting more than 800,000 visitors a year. The highlights of the festival this year include two international flight competitions, mooring the balloons, and a night lighting event.
Events at 2016 Saga International Balloon Fiesta
The World Hot Air Balloon Championship is regarded as “Olympic games” to world-class balloon pilots. This year the event will be held on October 31st to November 6th, 2016 It is held every other year and members of The World Air Sports Federation (FAI) attended. Saga Balloon Fiesta is going to host the world competition for the first time since in 1997. Becoming the host of this event means there will be 50 times more balloons present in the fiesta compared to normal years. In the first three days of the festival when championship participants rehearse their flights, Honda Hot Air Balloon Grand Prix will be held. Honda Grand Prix is one of the leading hot-air balloon races in Japan and overseas pilots also attend.
Adorable animals and popular cartoon characters are the number one favorite balloons among children! Kids Day is November 11. If the wind condition is good, spectators may be able to enter the launch area to look at the balloons up close. It is recommended to arrive as early as possible, because Balloon Fantasia may finish earlier than scheduled if the wind gets strong since the temperature increases in the late morning. Balloon Fantasia is held only once a day, after the morning flight competition.
The festival reaches the climax when the balloons are lit up by the burners against the darkness of the night. This is event is November 5th and November 6th, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. It is an fantastic moment when pilots and spectators from all around the world come together and admire the illuminated balloons. Fireworks decorate the night sky at the final mooring of the balloons when the pilots call “Burners on!”.
Balloon Saga Station of JR Kyushu Nagasaki Main Line will be operational only during the festival. The temporary station is not equipped to handle IC cards such as SUGOCA, so please buy a ticket to the destination if you take JR lines.
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2016 Saga International Balloon Fiesta
Dates: Oct 28th – Nov 6th 2016
Address: Kasemachi Oaza Ogino, Saga, Saga Prefecture
Access: 4 minute walk from Balloon Saga Station