Darth Vader balloon flies over Bristol

The 41st Bristol International Balloon Festival kicked off on Thursday August 8 with a special guest, namely a hot air balloon fashioned after Darth Vader’s iconic helmet.

Despite being made in Bristol by Cameron Balloons, the Darth Vader balloon had never flown over Bristol itself, so the fiesta’s organisers decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to bring the balloon, together with its crew, back home for this year’s event.

The hot air balloon participated in a mass ascent on the Thursday morning with 56 other balloons. This mass ascent had been added by the organisers over concerns about poor weather conditions developing. This proved to be justified as it became evident that the later special shapes ascent needed to be cancelled, while the night glow event was changed into a ‘naked glow’, where crews operated their burners without a balloon.

A decision was also made to cancel both mass ascents on the Friday, with conditions worsening on Saturday to the extent that the site needed to be closed for everyone’s safety. The site reopened at 10am on Sunday to much better, albeit still breezy, conditions, but the crews did their best to inflate and tether their balloons. Following a meeting between organisers and pilots at 4pm, the decision was made to cancel the last mass ascent and instead put on a tethered display, including a final appearance from Darth Vader.

While it’s always disappointing to have ballooning events cancelled due to bad weather, safety is always the paramount concern.

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