A record-breaking swarm of air balloons will variegate the sky above Kaunas this weekend
This weekend a hundred air pilots from the whole world intend to make a gift to Kaunas - a festival “With a Wind of Freedom” of unprecedented scale. If the weather conditions are favourable, colourful air balloons will rise up to the sky for 4 days in a row seeking records and competing for a symbolic monetary prize of EUR 1009 and an outstanding cup.
"Air balloons in the sky have always created a special atmosphere and spectacle. This time their number will be equal to the number of the anniversary of our modern Lithuania – one hundred! I will not hide, this is the event I have been waiting for the most that we have specially planned to mark the centenary in Kaunas. It is impressive that in the very heart of the city – Nemunas Island – we will be able to see air balloons even twice, in the mornings and in the evenings, for several days in a row", said Mr. Simonas Kairys, Deputy Mayor of Kaunas.
Invites to Celebrate Freedom
"Usually, we call the event a fiesta of air balloons, however actually this will be a festival of freedom and independence of the whole nation. If God allows good weather, we have a hope that this will be the most impressive event of the centenary", promised Mr. Gintaras Šurkus, organiser of the upcoming competition. "Although the site for the rising of air balloons is considered a zone of enhanced risk, we are prepared to take necessary precautions, however will try to ensure
that there would be no places forbidden for spectators. May people come and see everything from near, as this is a festival of freedom of all of us!"
During the event days, the programme will consist of the morning and evening parts. On July 5-7, from 8.00 p.m., a hundred air balloons will rise up from the Nemunas Island. According to Mr. Šurkus, this is nearly three times more than the number of take-offs from one site in Lithuania ever.
One of highlights of the event will become an air balloon "Centenary" with the national symbols, specially sewn and acquired for this prominent occasion of the State, whereas on the occasion of the Statehood Day on the eve of July 6th, a three-colour, 100 m long and 4.5 m –wide, will be attempted to be spread out in the sky.
That should be a record of Lithuania, like a hundred air balloons rising simultaneously from the same site. The event organisers will try to record these numbers in the Lithuanian record registration agency Factum.
Show of Air Acrobats
The "Centenary" air balloon will also perform an essential function of the competitions at the same time – it will be the so-called "fox". After it rises, it will be allowed to start blowing other balloons.
Participants try to blow them out and rise up as soon as possible, as they have to chase the waymark flowing away. In the place, where the "fox" lands, a target at which the participants must throw marks is laid down. The most accurate ones will get points, accordingly.
On the day of Coronation of King Mindaugas, before the rising of air balloons, at approximately 7.30 p.m., above the Nemunas Island, a special show programme will be performed by an acrobatic pilotage group ANBO. Pilots plan to use three-colour smoke for their show.
At that time, on July 6-8, in the mornings, Kaunas residents will be able to observe a hundred air balloons passing above the city. At approximately 8 a.m., they will rise up from anywhere – stadiums, squares, parks, plazas and other spaces in Kaunas offering sufficient space to blow up air balloons. Here much will depend on the direction of the wind, as the participant's waymark will become the Nemunas Island. Here, the first cross-shaped target will be waiting for them, at which the aeronauts will also try to demonstrate their accurateness. They will further follow and chase the "fox" that will show the direction to the next target.
The Prize Fund – EUR 1009
"As you know, air balloons require particular sites from where they may rise for flights. However, during the festival, in the mornings they will be able to take-off and land on any site in Kaunas. Nobody will check and give directions. Namely that will also show that we actually celebrate freedom", added Mr. Šurkus.
According to him, usually, such scale events are organised by at least several dozens of people. The festival in Kaunas is prepared by three Lithuanians. Therefore, the organisers say that they will not give any special instructions to participants of the competitions, only will ask to be polite, benevolent and service-minded to each other. "In this case, instead of bureaucratic constraints, restrictions, it is much more important to understand that this is a holiday with a peculiar mood. The participants will find places to take-off by themselves, will give way to each other and extend a hand of help in a gentlemanlike manner. Only this way we will be able to accommodate the one hundred balloons. Maybe they will rise to the sky in several waves".
When making lists of participants, the organisers reserved half of the seats to Lithuanian aeronauts, 30 – to colleagues from other countries of the European Union, and 10 seats – to each, non-EU states and other continents. The arrival of guests even from India and China is expected.
The winner of the celebratory competitions will get a special trophy – an extraordinary huge cup and a monetary prize – EUR 1,009. The money will be put in the denomination of EUR 1 coins into a special leather pouch. This is a symbolic sum meaning that namely in the year 1009 Lithuania was mentioned for the first time in the Saxon written sources, and precisely 1009 year has elapsed since that time.