Record number of visitors at Bristol hot air balloon festival
The 34th Bristol International Balloon Festival got off to a flying start with the launch of almost 100 hot air balloons from Ashton Court. As part of a spectacular opening ceremony on August 9, the four-day event started in perfect weather at 7:00 am with the hot air balloons, which could be seen for many miles around Bristol, floating over the city for around an hour.
Stemming from a small beginning in 1979, when the first festival was held in Bristol with only 27 balloons, the city has become synonymous with hot air ballooning and the Bristol International Balloon Festival is now Europe’s largest hot air balloon event, with over 140 balloons from across the world taking part this year.
Visitor numbers were the highest ever, with crowds estimated at 500,000 over the four days of the festival and hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes taking part. In addition to the mass ascents, other attractions were the IlluminAir on Friday night and the Night Glows featuring the diamond-shaped beacon from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. New to the festival this year, the Blades Display Team gave a thrilling aerobatics display on Sunday afternoon.
There was disappointment that poor weather, including heavy thunderstorms, led to the cancellation of the mass launches scheduled for Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The high winds on Saturday also prevented hot air balloon rides for passengers, although the weather cleared just in time for the mass hot air balloon launch on Sunday evening, marking the end of the 2012 festival.