I am so excited to be sharing a blog post about this with you, because this event is becoming a real highlight of my year. Some of you, may have heard of the above annual event which takes place at the Ashton Court Estate on the outskirts of Bristol. Up until a few years ago, I’d never heard of this event although I can’t think how I had missed it for so many years!
For those of you who don’t know, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is an event held in August every year, spanning a weekend where hot air ballon-ists from around the world gather to launch mass ascents. What is a ‘mass ascent’, you may ask? At 6am and 6pm on scheduled Fiesta days, the balloonists gather together in the Fiesta launch area, inflate their balloons and head for the skies! This can mean over 100 balloons taking off together during the same hour. The mass ascents are combined with a fun-fair, various entertainments (I believe some baby-racing took place, though S and I being childless don’t go in for that sort of thing for obvious reasons) and stalls selling food and drinks throughout the weekend.
I absolutely love this event. S and I went last year too, and vowed to return as often as we could to marvel at the spectical of these beautiful balloons in flight. We’ve just returned from this year’s event, so of course I had to share some photos with you.
This year’s event was a little tense – there were problems with the evening mass ascents on several days- the balloons were unable to go up because of the weather conditions – high wind speeds and too much cloud cover prevented them.
Sunday was the final day of the event and our last chance to see an evening ascent. We crossed our fingers and headed over to the site in good time arriving not long after 5pm to choose our patch of grass. The balloon pilots gather for a pre-flight briefing before each planned ascent – this is where a final decision on whether to go up is made, dependent on weather conditions. The crowd on this occassion was certaintly waiting with bated breath! Once the decision is made, the crowd are notified using a smoke signal – yup, a smoke signal! A pipe near the launching area gives off red smoke for no ascent, yellow or orange for partial and green for a clear mass ascent.
Well, we were in luck – the signal was green, the balloons could go! One balloon is sent up first to do a final test of conditions. Provided everything is satisfactory up above, a klaxon sounds and the mass ascent begins!
I can’t really describe how amazing it is to see all the balloons take off, but as you can see, I did take a lot of pictures! It’s also quite fun to see the tethered balloons inflating on the ground, but really nothing beats seeing them glide up over the horizon, silent and serene except for the occassional blasts from the burners.
All I can say is, if you can, go – you will love it!