Last year it was a sleepy orange mammal in the form of ‘Tico the Sloth’. But this year’s headline act for the Canberra Balloon Spectacular will have you clapping on the top of your knees and asking, “Who’s a good boy?”
‘Buster the Bulldog’ is the special-shape star for 2023’s hot-air balloon festival.
Designed and built in the UK in 2018 (making him 35 in dog years), he’s already travelled all over the world for events such as the Wairarapa Balloon Festival (New Zealand), Lake Havasu Balloon Festival (USA), Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival (UK) and more.
He’ll join tens of other hot-air balloons floating across Canberra’s skies every morning from Saturday, 11 March, to Sunday, 19 March.
Buster’s master and director of Lighter Than Air Limited Paul Burrows says it will be hard to miss him, let alone the giant slobbering tongue.
“He’s fond of licking small children. Fortunately, he’s well-trained. He’s also fond of water and is looking forward to flying over Lake Burley Griffin.”
Burrows has been flying hot air balloons since he was 17 and was the youngest pilot in Europe when he completed his qualifications.
Across the pond in New Zealand, he’s become known for flying some of the most iconic balloon shapes, including Kiwi Bird, Little Girl, Little Boy and the world’s largest pair of green underpants.
The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is held annually during the Enlighten Festival, which lights up the city with various events. Now in its 13th year, the 2023 Enlighten Festival runs from 3 to 13 March.
The balloon component always features a special shape in the line-up – you might remember a giant T-Rex, a beagle, a frog, a hummingbird, and that’s all before last year’s Tico.
ACT Minister for the Arts Tara Cheyne describes it as the “highlight in the Canberra events calendar”.
“[The Canberra Balloon Spectacular] attracts multitudes of visitors and locals who get up early to soak in the serene atmosphere of the colourful festival,” she says.
Buster the Bulldog will also be part of the ‘Pride Weekend Flight’ on the opening morning, where all the balloons will fly with LGTBIQA+ flags.
“Early risers (and their dogs) will be entertained by several local performers throughout the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, including the talented duo Mirror Mirror, Sweetheart String Quartet and jazz trio Bella Groove,” Ms Cheyne says.
The balloons will launch each morning from Patrick White Lawns from 11 to 19 March, with balloon inflation from 6:15 am and launch around 7 am, weather permitting.
For those who have braved the dawn start, a hot breakfast will be enjoyed as the balloons lift off and drift across the dawn sky. Check out the balloons throughout the morning with great views around the lake and from the Arboretum.
There’ll also be coffee and a range of breakfast options available at the launch site.
It’s free to watch, while a place in one of the balloon baskets costs from $345 for an adult and $250 for a child (6 to 12 years old).
For more information, visit the Canberra Balloon Spectacular website. Buy tickets on the Balloon Aloft website.