Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2018

The 2018 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta took place from 9th to 12th August at the usual Ashton Court Estate site in Bristol. This year was the event’s 40th anniversary and to celebrate the organisers invited new and old balloons from all over the world to attend. Some of the balloons that could be seen over the four days had not appeared in public for a very long time and were gratefully received by the attending public.

This fantastic free event at the scenic Ashton Court Estate, located not far from the centre of Bristol, not only attracts visitors from the local area but also from further afield in the UK, Europe and worldwide to sample the ballooning activities, the many trade stalls, family entertainment and arena activities.

The fiesta is justifiably famous for the two night glows, held on the Thursday and Saturday evenings, which sees many of the balloons tethered to the ground with the crews lighting up their balloons in time to music. It certainly makes for a fabulous sight which delights the crowds which is then followed by a firework display finale to round off the evening.

This year the Balloon Fiesta was unfortunate in that despite the UK benefiting from a sustained period of calm, dry and hot weather, this was broken up by a low pressure which meant that sadly many of the balloon launches were cancelled mainly due to the high wind speeds and also some rain. Despite this setback there were still many balloons tethering in the arena, including many old special shapes which were making a welcome re-appearance.

Thursday

There were no balloon launches tonight but the crews were able to tether a few in the arena before the night glow took place.

Friday

The morning launch was not possible due to strong winds and the prospect of some heavy rain arriving. However, we were treated to some tethered balloons, including some further special shapes. The event received good national TV coverage with ITV and BBC both doing their morning weather forecasts live from the arena. Yet again the miserable weather returned later in the day and the Friday evening launch was cancelled due to high wind speeds.

Saturday

Throughout the weekend Saturday morning was looking like the most promising, weather-wise, for a launch of balloons, and as the day dawned no-one was disappointed as the winds had died down enough for a mass launch to take place. Over 100 balloons, including a few special shapes, were able to launch into the Bristol skies, much to the delight of the crews and large number of spectators who had turned out to witness it.

After the mass launch a wonderful selection of special shape balloons were inflated in the arena, many of which had not been seen in public for many years. These included both Bertie Basset balloons, the Scottish Piper, Mr Peanut and many more bringing back some good memories of fiestas of old.

Sadly, into the afternoon, the winds returned, together with some heavy rain which was present for the remainder of the day. The Saturday night glow, for many visitors one of the highlights of the fiesta, was only able to take place with the balloon baskets and burners as the winds were too strong to allow the envelopes to be inflated. A large number of spectators were still keen to witness this sight and bravely stayed to enjoy it despite the weather.

The inclement weather continued into the following day making a balloon launch impossible, but a couple of balloons were able to tether. This brought the 2018 event to a somewhat damp end but planning for the 2019 Bristol Balloon Fiesta, to be held from 8th to 11th August, is now underway.

South West Aviation Photographers would like to thank all at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and at We Are Plaster for making this article possible.

Report by Gary Morris, Kev Slade and Matt Sudol.

© South West Aviation Photographers 2018