The weekend just gone marked he 40th Birthday of the Annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta. It’s an event I had been previously aware of but never really gave much thought to going. I’ve always fancied a ride in a hot air balloon but it’s something that features some way down on the Ol’ Bucket List. The Balloon Fiesta doesn’t seem to be interested in public rides, I certainly saw no advertising or signs to suggest it. It’s more about celebrating the Balloons themselves and the majestic beauty they hold in flight.
Two of our friends decided to head down earlier in the week whilst the rest of us opted to travel down on the Friday after work. It turns out that the early birds do catch the worm. Balloons are notoriously weather dependant and the recent heat wave we have been enjoying/enduring decided to break right in the middle of the Fiesta. Spectators on the Thursday evening bore witness to the Night Glow, where tethered Balloons light up the night with their burners to a soundtrack and accompanying fireworks. Sadly this event was reportedly cancelled on the Saturday due to the rain creeping in. However I have since found out they proceeded to use the burners but without the canopies. Still quite impressive I would hope.
For the Fiesta, I was woefully under prepared. I forgot to buy a new camping chair and had to rely on a fold up stool instead. I should’ve brought a flask of coffee at very least and possibly a picnic. Nah, just packed my new GoPro selfie stick and went for it. I was also unprepared for the revelation that the mass lift off, the spectacle I was most keen on, started at 6am. Ugh.
Despite the early start and the previous nights ciders, we all made it up in good time and descended on the Take Off grounds as the first wave of balloons were flying overhead. One, an owl, was a little lower than the rest and reportedly crashed down shortly after we passed it.
To see some highlights and more photos watch a short video here.
Wave after wave of Balloons went up in an almost constant stream and whilst it was great to witness the inflation and take off proceedings, I couldn’t help but wonder if being distant would give a better experience. The balloons only stayed in view for a few minutes from our view point and we couldn’t see all of them in the air at once.
After a short break to spend a small fortune on bacon sandwiches and coffee, we found a spot to make a small camp and watched some of the rarer shaped balloons inflate. As it was the fortieth celebrations many old balloons had been retrieved from a museum, including a giant Scotsman, two Bertie Bassetts and a giant birthday cake. The wind was picking up and the over sized balloons were proving hard to inflate but were mostly successful and we were glad of seeing what we did.
All in all, the Fiesta was a great day out. Plenty to see, plenty of different food stalls to try and loads of inflatable play areas and rides for the little ones. Maybe next time we go the weather will be more in our favour.