After a 3-year absence due to the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, the well renowned and popular Bristol International Balloon Fiesta made a welcome return from Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th August 2022 at the usual venue of the very picturesque Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. Opening its doors at 12pm on Thursday 11th, the crowds returned to the site even with the forecast of some extremely hot weather, see the balloons and sample the various stalls, food outlets and fairground rides.
However, fiesta Fever hit Bristol Some 10 days before the main event with the Fiesta Press launch on the 1st of August doubling up as the return of the Community launch, which proved to be extremely popular in 2021. With members of the public being able to suggest launch sites across the city, giving those unable to attend the main event at Ashton Court a chance to see some balloons. The two launch sites chosen this year were Vassells park, Fishponds and Carsons and Mangotsfield Cricket Club, Emersons Green.
Despite the heat, many balloons were tethered during the afternoon and evening, including those from the local MJ Ballooning and Bristol Balloon Collectors, included the former Palletways Dragon and Choc Dips special shapes, alongside some more traditional round balloons as part of the late Phil Dunnington memorial tethering. Phil played a major part in the organisation of many of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta events and this was a way of his many ballooning friends to pay their respects to their friend who sadly passed away in 2021.
Sadly, the extreme heat and unfavourable wind conditions meant that there was not to be any free in the evening slot, although there was the traditional musical night glow later at 9pm to keep the crowds entertained.
This event picked up from where it last left off at the previous fiesta and again provided a very fine choreographed musical episode to which the many inflated balloons lit their burners in tune with the music, much to the delight of the crowds.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday followed a similar pattern with warm weather, clear skies and little wind to give the prospect of a mass launch of balloons, which was duly confirmed in the pilots daily briefing at 6am. The wind direction would be taking the balloons from Ashton Court towards the Nailsea area in North Somerset. This led to the fantastic sight of many balloons of many shapes and colours in the area inflating at the same time and launching into the Bristol skies. Over 60 balloons took to the skies each morning with a further few choosing to remain tethered in the arena. The one interesting special shape to join in the flying was the JoyCam balloon from MJ Ballooning which, at 22 years old, was making its first appearance at the fiesta.
2022 saw the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta choose two charities to support, those being Teenage Cancer Trust and Great Western Air Ambulance. Both had a strong aviation related presence with Teenage Cancer Trusts G-OTCT operated by local balloon operator Lighter Than Air Ltd and Great Western Air Ambulance’s EC-135 G-GWAC attending the event on the Saturday
For each of these days, the evening flying was not going to be possible as the extreme heat during the day, together with the evening sea breezes that were evident would create some extremely unstable air together with thermals up to 8000ft which would not have been safe for the balloons. Regular tethering of balloons did take place during each afternoon and evening to keep the crowds entertained along with other displays from such as the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers parachute display team and Broke FMX Freestyle motocross team.
It was good to see the balloon fiesta back in the calendar for 2022 after the previous cancellations, and although the number of balloons that would fly were slightly less than we have seen in previous years, the sight of the many balloons taking to the skies was still a very spectacular sight.
We now look forward to 2023 when the fiesta will return on 10th to 13th August and build on the successful event in 2022.
Report by Gary Morris with images from Matt Sudol and Kev Slade.
© South West Aviation Photographers 2022