A hot air balloon in the shape of Darth Vaderwill come to Australia for the first time for Canberra's Balloon Spectacular.

A hot air balloon in the shape of Darth Vader will come to Australia for the first time for Canberra's Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Reuters

If you wake to see a giant Darth Vader head floating outside your window in March, don’t reach for your light sabre. This year the capital will feel the Darth side of the Balloon Spectacular.

This year’s festival will feature four uniquely-shaped balloons, including a peacock and Simba the lion from the Netherlands, and Mr Bup the Turtle, and, for the first time in Australia, a giant Darth Vader head from Belgium.

The 26 metre-high Darth Vader balloon took its maiden flight in Europe in 2007, and will make its way to Australia for the first time this year to take part in Canberra’s Centenary celebrations. With the engines roaring, it may even sound like the famous Star Wars character.

A giant peacock will take flight over Canberra for the Centenary Balloon Spectacular. Click for more photos

The Darth star comes to Canberra balloon festival

A giant peacock will take flight over Canberra for the Centenary Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Supplied

  • A giant peacock will take flight over Canberra for the Centenary Balloon Spectacular.
  • Simba the Lion will join Darth Vader, Mr Bup the turtle, and a giant peacock for the 2013 Balloon Spectacular.
  • A hot air balloon in the shape of Darth Vaderwill come to Australia for the first time in 2013.
  • Bup the Turtle returns to the capital in 2013.
  • A beaver shaped balloon took part in the 2012 festival.
  • Cirque Du Soleil's OVO (Egg) hot air balloon flies over the ACT in September last year.
  • A 30-metre high hot air balloon portraying the famous artist Vincent van Gogh came to Canberra in 2004.
  • The 2006 festival featured a giant red house.
  • The Kookaburra Balloon from Canowindra drew huge crowds in 2011.

The four novelty balloons will be part of a flotilla of about 40 flying in the festival, which runs from 6am each morning from March 9 to March 17, taking in the capital’s birthday weekend.

Pilots are also bringing in balloons from as far afield as France, Canada, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Pilot and managing director of Balloon Aloft Canberra Ewan Roberts said it was the most special shapes the festival has seen in a long time, and he hoped fans would come out in Force.

“We’d encourage all the Star Wars fans to put on fancy dress and come out and support Darth,” Mr Roberts said.

“There’s general excitement with Canberra’s 100th birthday, and the Balloon Spectacular is a big part of that, it’s something people look forward to every year.”

Mr Roberts, who has been flying for about 25 years, said the festival was the biggest ballooning event in the country.

“It’s wonderful, there’s so much colour and noise, if you find yourself in a pack of 40 balloons – it’s quite exciting,” he said.

“For a lot of Australian ballooners it’s the biggest of the balloon festivals around Australia … and we’ve got a number of international pilots come out as well this year for this event.”

Dianne Ireland from Events ACT said the event is unlike anything else anywhere in the world.

“It’s quite unique to Canberra, we’re probably one of the only capital cities in the world where you can fly over the parliament and fly over the buildings. You wouldn’t be able to do that anywhere else in the world,” Ms Ireland said.

“Each morning the mass ascension is quite spectacular, watching them all lift off.”

Balloons launch from 6am, depending on the weather, with entertainment and breakfast available for spectators and fliers alike until about 10am each day on the lawns of Old Parliament House.

Two companies are offering passenger flights during the festival: Balloon Aloft and Dawn Drifters. Further information is available by calling Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.