For a sky filled with colourful hot air balloons, the place to be is the Ashton Court Estate in Bristol every year in August for the world-famous International Balloon Fiesta. This year the event celebrated its 40th anniversary.
The event is free to attend and features well over 100 hot air balloons taking to the air, as well as the stunning night glows set to music. Not all the balloons come in the standard shape you’d expect either – imagine a huge peanut, the Michelin man, a massive tiered birthday cake and a lion!
The exciting event is the biggest such gathering of balloons in Europe and attracts hot air balloons from right across the globe. The event takes place over 4 days in August every year and is free to attend, but you will find parking charges apply.
And it’s not just balloons that you’ll discover here as there are hundreds of fairground attractions, rides, trade stands and lots more entertainment. The location has all the facilities you would expect of a large public event, including Event Medical Cover. For more information about providing medical care at events, visit https://outdoormedicalsolutions.co.uk/event-medical-cover/
The balloons spend the afternoon tied up on the ground for viewing, with an evening mass ascent, weather permitting. After the ascent, there is a firework finale to further wow the crowds.
How did the event come about?
The fiesta idea was born following a conversation between Don Cameron and some friends over a drink. Don Cameron owned Cameron Balloons. The very first event took place in 1979 when only 27 balloons were in attendance. It wouldn’t become known as the International Balloon Fiesta until 1983.
The now-famous night glows, which take place on the Thursday and Saturday evenings, first took place in 1990 but didn’t become a full part of the Fiesta until 1997. These early events were also not staged at the Ashton Court Estate but on the Bristol Downs instead.
Some Fiesta facts:
In 1992, one of the biggest radio shows in the country – the Chris Evans Radio 1 show was broadcast live from the Fiesta.
Each balloonist carries with them a gift basket to present to the owners of land that they might need to come down on.
Famous guests to have attended the Fiestas over the years include Sir David Attenborough, Richard Branson and HRH Prince Edward.
A new world record was created in 2013 when more than 70 balloons touched down in the same location after lifting off from the Fiesta.
The record didn’t last long though as it was beaten the very next year. 90 balloons landed together after taking off from the Fiesta. They landed at a former Cadbury’s chocolate factory.
A contest for special shapes was launched in 1997. Since then, the event has seen some weird and wonderfully shaped balloons, including Sonic the Hedgehog, a Minion and a Smurf.