Up in the air: The annual balloon festival comes to Chennai for the first time
There are a few events in the state that match the scale of the annual Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival (TNIBF), held in Pollachi. But the biggest news this time around is that the festival is being organised in Chennai for the first time (at the sprawling 4,000- plus acre ground of Mahindra World City), and naturally, the buzz is bigger than ever. There is also a spurt in the participation this year, with people having signed up for the event from around eight countries, like USA, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, France, Denmark and India. Promising balloons in more interesting shapes than the previous editions, the TBIFF this year also features an exciting performance by singer-actor Andrea Jeremiah. Also, a line-up of food trucks, games, balloon tethering sessions and a DJ night in the end, make this event a must-attend.
Benedict Savio, founder of Global Media Box, the main organiser of the event, says that although, unlike the Pollachi edition, balloon flights are a complete no-no in the city (due to the presence of the airport), the Chennai edition looks set to attract over 60,000. “Pollachi last year saw only 20,000 attend the event,” says Benedict, adding that Denmark and Poland are the two new countries that are participating in Chennai. “There are 10 balloons this time, out of which the interesting shapes are a White Cat one from Germany, Angry Birds from the USA and Ice Cream from Belgium,” he says, pointing out that the event is meant only as a spectator event. “That said, attendees will be able to experience short tethered rides of upto 100 feet,” he assures.
Will we see the Chennai edition hosting flights in the future? we ask him. “There have been instances where we were required to explain to people the challenges of organising balloon flights in the city. For once, we need gentle winds that go only upto 5-6 knots for balloon tethering, and around 8 knots for flights. It’s crucial to look out for these readings before hosting an event of such a large scale,” explains Savio, who hosted his first balloon festival for Emirates in 2007. “Since then I have organised such festivals in many countries, as well as in India, but to be honest, Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only state that has shown incredible consistency by going strong for five years,” he says.
January 4-6. At Mahindra World City, Chennai (3.30 pm onwards), and January 13-15, at Shakthi Mills Ground, Pollachi (6 am onwards). For more details, check the event website.