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The Amazing Bristol Balloon Festival

Author : Cara Brownethorpe

The sky is filled with beautiful flickering shapes and lights, and the crowd marvel at the wonderful spectacle above them. It's quite an event, but even better than that it's free.

The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is held every year and is famed for the Night Glows. They are the most popular parts of the four-day festival and quite a thing to see. The pilots create a variety of dazzling effects using 'flicker', 'burn' and 'flash' commands which are set to music. The array of sequences is choreographed very well and followed by a dramatic finale in the form of a colourful firework display that leaves even the most mature looking up in delight. It's a night to remember!

The history of the fiesta starts in September 1978 with Don Cameron of Cameron Balloons fame. He decided to create an event for balloonists and set about his task with enthusiasm. Local businesses sponsored balloons and were even allowed on board to help out.

The first fiesta was a small gathering of balloonists from Ireland, England, Germany and Luxembourg who came together at Ashton Court to display their balloons.
Spectators witnessed a mass ascent of 27 balloons and marvelled at the weekend-long display of flying. The success of this weekend led to the event becoming an annual fixture in the calendar of Bristolians and balloonists alike.

The International Balloon Fiesta is Europe's largest ballooning event and regularly draws over 100 balloons and crowds in their hundreds of thousands.

Good vantage points are at a premium so try and get there early!

The event is held in August over a long weekend.Ashton Court opens on the Thursday and you can see a free pop concert and various stalls. The first Night Glow is one of the Fiesta's biggest attractions and thousands of people travel to see it. The next night glow is held on the Saturday.

The odd shaped balloons are also launched on the Thursday at about 6pm. You can see all sorts of wacky shapes from lighthouses to houses.

Mass ascents happen between 6am and 6pm on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Over 100 balloons take off in less than half an hour. Many of them take part in a 'hunt' across the sky for the so-called 'hare' (a balloon that takes off ahead of the rest and is then pursued by the rest who are known as the 'hounds').

Bristol International Balloon Festival is a great spectacle to see and definitely worth going to the city for.

This year's balloon fiesta will be 11th - 14th August. Don't forget to sort out your accommodation in Bristol as early as possible as the festival is very popular and so hotels and B&B's book up very quickly.

If you have a bit of time, try combining a visit to Bristol with a few days in Devon or Cornwall where you can see more of what the South West of England has to offer.

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Submitted : 2011-04-27    Word Count : 493    Times Viewed: 490