Sometimes I just love living in Bristol. We have our very own Balloon Fiesta, just a few miles from where we live and it just happens to be Europe’s largest ballooning event. How handy is that?
During the four days between 8th – 11th August 2013 over 150 hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes will take off from Ashton Court Estate with half a million visitors gathering to watch.
We’ve been to the Fiesta many times over the years and this year we got the chance to get up close to the action in the main arena.
And wow, what an experience it was! You know when you really do something for the benefit of the kids because you know they’ll love it and you’re not really expecting to be that bothered yourself?
But once I plucked up the courage to pick my way through the numerous tethers, 4 X 4s & belching flames to join the other press types and balloon crews, the most excited kid was me! The first thing that struck me was the size of the balloons.
While some of the impressive shapes were already inflated and showing off for the crowds, these huge expanses of fabric were waiting their turn.
“If you think they look big now, just wait until they start to fill them”, laughed the friendly crew from Bristol Balloons. So I waited, right there, along with a few others
Did you realise that the baskets are on their side while the envelope is being inflated? You did? Ah – perhaps I cannot rely on one episode of Peppa Pig as an exhaustive source of ballooning knowledge after all!
As the air went in, I started to get an impression of their size
For the sake of atmosphere, can you please imagine the sound of giant fans and the warmth of belching flames?
Thank you 🙂
And there it is. Yes that little white blob inside the balloon is actually a man! I don’t know about you but I find it hard to equate the size of that internal space with the similar finished product below!
The weather on Thursday was fine so a fabulous range of balloons took off
A fantastic display apart from the poor beer bottle on the horizon who seemed to be suffering from an unfortunate case of brewers droop!
The main event is the balloon ascents which are scheduled for 6am and 6pm but there is a packed schedule during the four days in the arena as well as lots to see and do on the ground. These mini tethered balloons provide a fun show once the full size ones have taken off.
Apart from the balloons, this years free entertainment includes an aerobatic display by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, the all female Breitling Wingwalkers taking to the skies for dare devil performances at 12 noon and 5pm on Saturday 10th August, the EXIT Parachute Display Team and a Spitfire memorial Flight and display by the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team.
A bandstand is featuring a full programme of local bands and a stage is showcasing all genres of dance from ballet to bhangra and bollywood to ballroom.
Oh and cartwheels are free too.
The nightglow involves 30 teams lighting up their balloon as night falls at 9.00pm on Thursday and Saturday to a backdrop of fireworks. It’s an impressive spectacle but we decided to head home before it started on Thursday, partly because it makes a really late night of it and partly because negotiating your way back in the dark and trying to find where you parked your car is not that appealing to me!
THE PRICE TAG
Entry to the event is free but some of the commercial activities come at a price. I asked the boys to have a good look round and then let them choose something they’d like to go on. So far I’ve steered them away from the main funfair section as I suspect it would just guzzle money. Four year old Zu wanted to go on this gigantic bouncy slide which I thought was pretty reasonable at £2.50 and I let the bigger boys go on the Top Gear simulator which cost £3 each. As that and the £6 car parking was all we paid for, I thought it was a pretty reasonable afternoon out.
OUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR THE BALLOON FIESTA
- If you’re taking a car, book your parking in advance as it’s much cheaper – even if you book the same day!
- Aim to arrive early for the evening ascents to get a good spot. A picnic blanket makes a good base and the viewing areas are on a hill so you can generally see pretty well without standing up. There’s lots to see and do so it’s worth planning to stay for at least a few hours.
- Food can be costly and the queues for food and drink can be very long at peak times, so bring some snacks and drinks even if you want to buy a meal there.
- Bear in mind it’s quite a walk from the parking to the arena so plan footwear accordingly. I still take a pushchair for my (lazy?) 4 year old which doubles as transportation for all our baggage!
- Check out the programme. There are quite a few free activities like this Pokemon tent, which can be easy to miss as the site is so big.
Ascents: 6am and 6pm daily, Thursday 8th – Sunday 11th August
Night glows: 9pm on Thursday 8th and Saturday 10th August
To find out more about this year’s festival, please visit http://www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk or follow @BristolBalloon and https://www.facebook.com/bristolinternationalballoonfiesta.
I still love this balloon from “Up” and have probably taken far too many photos of it! Do you have a favourite ‘thing’ at the balloon Fiesta?