The man who makes the show for Balloons over Waikato's Nightglow

Nic Norris is the man behind Balloons over Waikatos traditional finale the Nightglow.
The 39-year-old has been the event's choreographer for the past six years and is in charge of Saturday night's extravaganza at Waikato University.

His job is to come up with a soundtrack for both The Base Burn on Friday night and for the Nightglow. He then also creates the choreography that all the balloons along glow with.

This year with the Keeping it Kiwi theme it made it a little easier for the music because I could get lots of cool New Zealand music, and mix it up with some old and newer stuff to keep it suitable for all generations that are going to be there.


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Norris does have a musical background having learnt the piano when he was five and has played the snare drum in a pipe band since he was 10-years-old.

The choreography and the patterns can take a bit more time to create from hours to days.

Its a challenge, and it adds to the event and gives me something else to do.

It is easier said than done, trying to get pilots to obey simple instruction can be a bit of a challenge sometimes.

However, thats not the biggest challenge for Norris, its getting the right weather.

And getting the pilots to put their balloons up in conditions sometimes they may not feel most delighted in.

He concedes its a real juggling act when it comes to keeping the balloons on the ground, and making sure he doesn't do too many burns that are too long that could overheat the balloons and make them buoyant.

On Wednesday Norris marked all the glow fields and the locations where he wants the balloons, allocating the balloonists spots for the night.

That is an exercise in itself for Norris, who has to take into consideration the different balloons, size and colour.

Bruce Mercer/Stuff
This years Nightglow performance by the balloons will be around 16 minutes (file photo).

I try not to bunch too many balloons the same colour together, to give the visual impact as well and certainly with size we dont want too many big balloons sitting at the front blocking everybody else out.

On the day, the balloons arrive mid-afternoon and are put into position. At about 5pm there will be a briefing and the pilots are given their radios, cue sheets and a run down on how its going to work.

Then around 7 to 7.30pm they will start to inflate and then when the Nightglow starts they just have to listen to their radio, look at their cue sheet and do as theyre told.

The 16-minute choreographed piece is something different for the pilots to participate in.

Its a great way of giving back to the public who have been supporting us all week.

Mark Taylor/Stuff
Thousands of people are expected to attend Saturdays Nightglow on Waikato University (file photo).

Norris is pleased to see the event back after it was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid.

I had put together a soundtrack and I had started doing the choreography. It was a bit of a let down that it didnt happen but that is the world at the moment with covid.

There will be road closures around Waikato University for Nightglow from 2pm to 11pm.

These will be Hillcrest Rd from Silverdale Rd to ODonoghue St, Knighton Rd from Greensboro St to Ruakura Rd.

There will be no access to or from Knighton Rd off Old Farm Rd, as well as no access Ruakura Rd between Nottingham Dr and Silverdale Rd

Mark Taylor/Stuff
There will be numerous road closures ahead and during Nightglow on Saturday (file photo).

Silverdale Road will only be open to one way traffic heading north between 2pm and 11pm.

There will be free public parking available on-site at Gate 1, Knighton Rd and Gate 10, Silverdale Rd or on surrounding street sides.

There is $5 parking within Innovation Park, access via Ruakura Road only.

There are free buses running between 4.15pm and 7pm including from The Base and Hamilton East.

After the Nightglow has finished, buses will run on a continuous as-available basis until all passengers have boarded for their return journey.

Passengers over the age of 12 are expected to wear a face mask while on the buses.

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