Our second attempt at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta! This year we decided to camp overnight – well, I say camp, but it was a lot more civilized than that – we spent two nights in this splendid vehicle
whilst all around us there were brave souls in tents – not my idea of fun. The campsite was actually Cotham rugby pitch, which meant there was a clubhouse, showers, toilets, an outside tap for water and a bar to get beer and hot food all close by!
The Fiesta is run over 4 days and IF the weather had been more benign those four days would have been packed with exciting arena activities like wing walkers and parabatix, but as we all know, in the UK that is a big ‘IF‘.
This year’s programme included 6 mass launches – one at 6 am and one at 6 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – I’m not sure but I think I may have witnessed the only one that happened – the Saturday dawn launch. The organizers were at the mercy of the rain and wind for most of the weekend – a real shame.
This is what greeted me as I headed down the hill towards the main arena
I was not alone! It was like an army on the march
The first balloon we saw was this owl
although I don’t think he actually left the ground.
There were around 40 ‘Special Shapes’ balloons – I spotted 9 – this motorbike, the dog, Bertie Bassett, a fire extinguisher, a lion from Longleat, Paddy Power’s green Y fronts, a Minion, a Panasonic battery, a fish and even a Scottish piper!
From Friday to Sunday there were two mass launches planned each day of over 100 balloons – one at 6 am and one at 6 pm. There were all manner of food and drink stalls, bars, trade stands, a fun fair, huge inflatable slides all around the huge arena – lots to keep people happy – but 12 hours is a long time between launches even for your stalwart Fiesta fan – so my advice is to pace yourself! Or just plan to see one. Of course, this sort of thing is completely weather dependent and the weather wasn’t cooperating!
I watched the mayhem in the main arena – dozens of balloons jostling for space, inflating in a matter of minutes and taking to the clear blue skies over Bristol, watched by masses of spectators, cooking burgers and bacon on portable barbies! I wouldn’t trust myself to make a coffee at that time in the morning let alone be in charge of a barbecue.
I headed back up the hill in the general direction of our campsite but I noticed that in an area over to the right some of the balloons were landing – another photo opp.
By three o’clock the rain had set in so there was little activity in the main arena – we should have been watching the likes of Lee McCrory perform his aerial antics, but things were turning decidedly damp so we headed back up the hill (again! certainly got some exercise on Saturday!) and bide our time in the comfort of our mobile home. But nocturnal activities were also a washout, the Night Glow, where they tether the balloons and illuminate them, was cancelled. The firework display did go ahead, which went some way to ameliorating my brother’s disappointment at the Gin stall being closed!!
There was no improvement in the weather by Sunday and an air of despondency and resignation descended on the campsite as people decided to pack up and go home early.
I really felt for everyone concerned in the organisation of such a huge event as well as all the spectators who didn’t see a single balloon lift off, especially as we have had weeks of wall to wall sunshine!!
I didn’t feel for some of the food and drink stalls which were happy to charge outrageous prices (for sometimes almost inedible food – you know who you are!) My best buy was a disposable rain poncho from the Hospice stand – £1 – a bargain!
So ……….. here’s to next year. The Balloon Fiesta is a great spectacle – and no one can do anything about the weather…………
so let’s hope for sunshine.