Tuesday, 03 August 2021 02:05

Great Balloon Race organisers 'heartbroken' to cancel again Featured

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The organiser of a Wiltshire balloon festival due to be attended by around 12,000 people has spoken of his ‘heartbreak’ at having to delay it for the second time in little over a month.

Now the race is on to find a third-time-lucky date for the covid-hit Great Balloon Race Extravaganza before the end of the year.

Around 4,000 people a night had been due to attend the three-day event scheduled for Charlton Park near Malmesbury from August 13 to 15.

Companies providing security and other key services at the extravaganza have been hit by the so-called pingdemic, with staff forced to self-isolate after being pinged by the NHS app.

Event director Adam Faulkner said they could no longer guarantee the safety of the event, which would have seen aerial acts, balloon displays and music at the estate on the A429.

The extravaganza had been switched there from an early July slot at Bowood after the Government delayed the country’s emergence from lockdown.

The pingdemic has also been blamed for the cancellation of another Great Balloons Race event in Cheshire.

Mr Faulkner said: “It’s a little heartbreaking for us.”

He said it was impossible to find new security and safety contractors at such short notice.

“It meant we wouldn’t have been able to safely set up the event. The safety of people comes first.”

Safety experts at Wiltshire Council are now deciding whether his firm should be given a ten-year licence to hold balloon events at Charlton Park, giving it more flexibility in the future.

Mr Faulkner said he was ‘super keen’ to find a new date for the event in the coming months, and would be looking at whether the current system of booking tickets in groups of six people could be amended to allow for individuals or couples to sign up.

He admitted there had been some hold-ups in processing refunds for people not wanting to switch from their original Bowood booking dates, but that around £45,000 had now been handed back.

Everyone who is currently booked in for Charlton Park will be offered the choice of a refund or an area at a rescheduled event, with refunds taking up to 30 days to turn around.

He said that if people had waited longer than 30 days, they should email the company again.

“We have been quite touched by the kindness of people, but we do understand the frustration, and that people will be upset.”

A lifelong balloonist, Mr Faulkner insisted he was hugely serious about staging the event, and that the firm had successfully put on an extravaganza on the Isle of Wight in May.

An event planned for Bedfordshire in September is still due to go ahead.

He said many of his early training flights as a balloonist had been over Malmesbury.

“I have a connection with Wiltshire and ballooning is my life.”

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