The Jakarta Post
The balloons were colorful and dominated by batik motifs to reflect Pekalongan’s image as the city of batik. (Courtesy of Central Java Administration/File)
Thousands gathered at Hoegeng Stadium in Pekalongan, Central Java on Wednesday morning to witness the release of 105 hot air balloons during the Java Balloon Festival.
The balloons were crafted by locals to celebrate Syawalan, the first month after Idul Fitri.
Such celebration has been a tradition for generations in Pekalongan, however the organized festival only started since last year.
Two years ago, airline pilots complained about large hot air balloons flying wildly across their flight routes.
“It is a tradition, but we have to remember that the flying balloons can cause disturbances to flights,” Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said.
Addressing the issue, the Central Java administration alongside state-owned air navigation firm AirNav decided to organize Java Balloon Festival to help preserve the rooted tradition as well as minimize any risks. In the festival, hot air balloons are not allowed to take off wildly but instead must stay anchored to the ground using a strong rope.
Ganjar also mentioned an old tradition of attaching firecrackers to the hot air balloons, which is now banned.
“Such tradition is very dangerous; once the firecrackers were attached to the gas tube and caused a fire,” he said.
This year’s hot air balloon festival is bigger than the last edition, which only involved 38 balloons. The balloons were colorful and dominated by batik motifs to reflect Pekalongan’s image as the city of batik.
“This is a new tourist destination in Pekalongan. All of the balloons are interesting and beautiful with characteristics that are unique to Pekalongan,” Ganjar said.
Novie Riyanto Rahardjo, the CEO of AirNav which sponsored the festival, said prizes had been prepared for the hot air balloon participants.
“We have prize money of Rp 70 million [US$4,918], an umrah [minor haj] package, flight tickets and many door prizes,” he said.
A participant named Hari said he had spent two weeks preparing his balloon with friends.
“Hopefully we'll be able to grab one of the prizes,” he said, smiling. “We are also hopeful that this event will be organized every year and more prizes will be involved.” (gis/kes)