Expo officials cite costs and weather as reasonsESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. After two years of less-than perfect conditions for flying, officials at Champlain Valley Exposition announced it will not hold the Vermont Balloon and Music Festival.The annual event, traditionally held the first weekend of June, began in 2003 and featured about 40 hot-air balloons, a carnival, specialty vendors and concerts at 130-acre Champlain Valley Exposition. The first two years saw nearly perfect weather and many memorable hot-air balloon launches, concerts and a balloon-glow that the balloonists themselves described as one of the best ever. However, in 2006 and again last year, unsettled weather conditions during the three-day festival kept the balloons grounded more times than not and weekend attendance suffered. We just were not able to catch a break on the weather last year, said Tom Oddy, Director of Special Events for the Exposition. Hot-air balloons need clear skies and calm winds just after sunrise and just before sunset to safely launch.Despite our best efforts — and the support of some great presenting partners and sponsors — what people really wanted to experience at the festival was seeing the colorful hot-air balloons and special shape balloons, inflate, take off and fly, Oddy said.Despite the cancellation of the Vermont Balloon and Music Festival, hot-air ballooning enthusiasts still have several opportunities in the region to see the balloons fly: Quechee (Vt.) Balloon and Craft Festival on June 13-15; Stoweflake Hot Air Balloon Festival in Stowe on July 11-13; and The International Balloon Festival at Saint Jean-Sur-Richelieu in Quebec on Aug. 9-17. We know Vermonters and especially our neighbors in Chittenden County love to see the balloon floating over their neighborhoods, so we are talking with several of Vermonts local hot-air balloon pilots about incorporating a launch or two into the Fairs schedule this year, according to Champlain Valley Exposition General Manager David F. Grimm. A local balloonist flew over the Fair as the sunset last year and it was a beautiful sight. Its one we hope to repeat again this August.For more information about the upcoming 2008 events at Champlain Valley Exposition, visit www.cvexpo.org(link is external) and sign up for the free online newsletter to get early concert announcements, special discount offers and advance tickets.
A BITTER row has erupted between France and South Korea that could see the 431 km Seoul – Pusan TGV line delayed by more than the four years already likely because of problems with civil engineering work (RG 12.96 p777). The problem stems from a decision last December by France’s privatisation commission not to permit the sale of the Thomson Multimedia group to Korea’s Daewoo Electronics.The Koreans took it badly, demanding renegotiation of contracts with French suppliers – such as the deal which sees GEC Alsthom and its partners building prototype trains and providing know-how for Korean companies to build their own TGVs (RG 11.96 p735). French emissaries travelled to Seoul to try and smooth things over, but they returned empty-handed. Worse, the Koreans accused the French of ’yellow racism’, with President Kim Young Sam saying that France could not be trusted to keep its word. The French have not exactly handled the situation with aplomb. It seems that the Thomson-Daewoo deal was announced before the privatisation commission had given its ruling, and attempts to explain to the Koreans that the commission was an independent body met with incomprehension. Calling off the deal was seen as revenge for Korea’s previous cancellation of air defence contracts in favour of American companies that had allegedly offered hefty bribes to the then President Roh Tae Woo, now serving a gaol sentence for corruption.The freak cold weather in France in early January that immobilised TGVs for hours (RG 2.97 p82) prompted the Koreans to set up a formal investigation to see if TGVs suffered from ’critical defects’. They also took the opportunity to suggest that the Seoul – Pusan TGV contract be renegotiated. This may turn out to be cover for further problems with the civil engineering work – there are indications that the 300 km/h line may not be ready until 2010. o
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