The Bristol Balloon Fiesta

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Every year, balloon teams from around the world make the journey to Ashton Court in south-west England to show their hot air balloons at the world famous Bristol Balloon Fiesta. The event has been held annually since 1979, when a year previously, ballooning adventurer Don Cameron organized a gathering of balloon enthusiasts to share their experiences in a local pub and seeing the degree of interest, decided to organize a fiesta. From humble beginnings of 27 balloons, the fiesta has grown into a four day event attended by over 500,000 people and more than 100 hot air balloons on show.

The family-friendly event attracts people from far and wide who come to witness the mass ascent of the balloons and also to enjoy the huge range of exhibitors in the trade village, multi-ethnic cuisine caterers, an arts and crafts pavilion, entertainment and concessions. Now one of the largest balloon-focused events in Europe, the Fiesta works with sponsors from a huge range of industries, providing a unique and memorable medium for advertising their brand message. In fact, being in close proximity to the fiesta site, founder Don Cameron’s balloon company, Cameron Balloons, custom-make many of the unusually-shaped balloons for each event. Memorable balloons from past years have been a Scottish piper, Rupert the Bear and a supermarket trolley. Not to be outdone, many foreign-owned and made balloons make the journey, with notable shapes being an American UFO and beaver, a Dutch upside-down ballon and a Kiwi from New Zealand.

Each day of the fiesta, subject to suitable weather conditions, two mass ascents are made, the sky filling with brightly colored spheres at 6am and 6pm. On the opening night of the festival, a special event called the ‘night glow’ is held, with all balloons present inflated and lit up. This visual treat is accompanied with music and climaxes with a fireworks display later in the evening. This even is repeated on the saturday night of the festival, to ensure at least two day’s worth of spectators get the chance to witness this beautiful sight.

In an effort to improve the consistency of lift-offs at the festival, the festival has been held in August in recent years because of the more ballon-friendly conditions. Previous festivals held over September were regularly hit by inclement weather and muddy conditions on the ground. This shift has also meant that more families can make the trip as their children are still enjoying the summer holidays.

The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is a wonderful experience filled with sights, sounds and sustenance that is sure to prove memorable for both young and old, whether they are new-comers to the festival or returnees.