The 15,000 who crammed into the Strathalbyn harness racing complex on Saturday night for the biennial Balloon and Aviation Regatta were a clear indication of the event’s popularity.
Sadly, the same conclusion could also be reached by watching the snaking lines outside the toilets and food stalls.
The event’s popularity exceeded everyone’s expectations and the hard working volunteers of the organising committee – who personally bankrolled the event to the tune of several thousand dollars – deserve congratulations, not ridicule, as was displayed by some disgruntled patrons on social media.
Yes, there were some problems but almost nobody expected 15,000 people to attend.
The State Government needs to immediately approach the committee and help develop the event so it becomes a regular feature on the region’s calendar.
It is a real tourist drawcard and nothing like it exists in SA.
It has winner written all over it.
It would be a tragedy for the event to be forsaken – or lost to another region – for the sake of a few portaloos and some more food stalls.
The volunteers have come up with the original idea and have done the hard work to build it into what it is today but have clearly signalled the need for some assistance.
This is the perfect opportunity for the Government’s expertise to shine.
The committee is not asking for money, they want help.
It is easy to imagine Jay Weatherill extolling the virtues of the next event in 2017 from the basket of a hot air balloon floating gracefully through the dawn stillness above one of SA’s most historic tourist towns.
It’s a marketer’s dream and the fantastic publicity for both the event and the Government are obvious.
The regatta was a family-orientated event at low cost with all the profits returned to the local CFS, SES and Rotary club.
A host of smaller community organisations such as sporting clubs and Scout groups were welcomed to piggyback on the event and use it as a fundraiser.
Most of that money will stay in the local community.
Event organiser Kate Knight has offered the Facebook critics a seat on the organising committee.
It’ll be interesting to see how many take up the offer.
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