Up, up and away: 25 hot air balloons take flight in tribute to Igualada health workers
City that suffered one of Europe's most severe Covid-19 outbreaks hosts 24th European Balloon Festival
Igualada hospital – just a few months ago the epicenter of one of Europe's most severe Covid-19 outbreaks – was on Friday morning the launchpad for a riot of color, as around 25 hot air balloons took to the skies.
This inaugural flight of the 24th edition of the European Balloon Festival was dedicated to the health professionals of the Conca d'Òdena area, which was hit early and hard by the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Many of the balloons unfurled banners reading 'Amunt, Igualada!' (Up, Igualada!), as they took flight over the city in central Catalonia.
Among the invited passengers on the balloons were doctors, nurses, and other members of staff from Igualada's hospital and medical centers.
"A brave city"
The 2020 edition of the festival has been scaled back compared to previous years because of the ongoing health crisis, but the mayor of Igualada, Marc Castells, spoke of the organizers' "courage" for going ahead with some events.
"We are a brave city that never stops and likes to take off," said the mayor, who also thanked the festival for paying tribute to the health workers "so heavily impacted by Covid-19."
Catalan government minister Damià Calvet added his praise for the tribute to medical staff, which, he said, at the same time was also a "reminder of the victims of Covid."
Launching the hot air balloons sent "a very clear message of resistance and enthusiasm to the world," he added.