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Bristol Balloon Fiesta

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ANNUAL EVENT. Ashton Court Estate, Bristol. Europe's largest hot air balloon festival. 2000: 10th-13th August.

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      15.02.2011 14:28
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      get up close and personal with hot air balloons

      Long Ashton is a village on the outskirts of Bristol, and it is at the end of the village where Ashton Court can be found. Here is the location of the Balloon Fiesta every year in August - this year its 11th to 14th. Even though it is on my doorstep, i still have to go every year i love it. Also its FREE to get in! (but theres lots to spend your money on when you go in!)

      --Location and Parking--
      Ashton Court is just outside Bristol, it is a large country house estate owned by Bristol City Council. There is a lot of history about the site, and it was owned by a local family, The Smythes, for many years - but i digress thats another story.
      There are numerous entrances to Ashton Court, however, for the Balloon Fiesta i would recommend the Long Ashton entrance by foot.
      Parking is something you really need to plan in advance, as if you dont you will either pay through the nose, or end up walking miles. Locally various farmers open up their fields for parking. If you visit the Balloon Fiesta website www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk you will find parking info.
      Whatever you do dont park in the village along the main road and walk down to Ashton Court. I am not saying this as a precious villager! Its just that in the evening when leaving it is bedlam. The village road is narrow, and the buses still run in the evening and the main road throught the village becomes stationary for the whole period - so i advise paying in one of the specially created car parks, or the local park and ride (15 min walk away)

      --Is there anywhere to stay?--
      In the village there is a pub - The Angel Inn, they do a limited amount of accomodation, although i would imagine it gets booked in advance. But local farmers open up their fields for tents, camper vans and caravans - so if this is your thing then you will be fine.
      Other than this there are plenty of places to stay in Bristol and surrounding areas.

      --What is there to do at the Balloon Fiesta?--
      Well, as you would imagine there are lots of Hot Air Balloons!
      However, there are fairground rides, market stalls, promotional stalls for local and national businesses (usually plenty of freebies!) Activities to try out, helicopter rides and Balloon rides for the wealthy amongst you! Lots of different food stalls, beer stalls, local produce and crafts for sale.

      Lots of people take a picnic, and camp out there for the day, as there is plenty of open space!

      Every morning and every evening (weather permitting) there is a mass Balloon ascent - these are usually around 5 or 6 am and pm - they are well worth seeing. The mass ascents can be seen all round Bristol, you dont have to be at Ashton Court for this bit - i just look out of my bedroom window.

      --What is the highlight?--
      For me there are 2 highlights.
      1 - is the Night Glow. This usually happens on the Thursday and the Saturday night, and is probably the most popular bit of the event. Usually takes place around 9.30pm ish. This involves a large number of tethered balloons in a ring (or suchlike), loud music (sometimes classical, sometimes Pop, rock etc) - the Balloons light their burners in time to the music, in a pattern and in turns - whilst swaying slightly in the wind. It really is like a magical dance - awe inspiring - it makes the hairs on the back of my arms stand on end. So if you make the effort to attend - you cant miss the night glow. Also the night glow is followed by Fireworks to finish the evening off.
      2 - the Red Arrows. I dont need to explain why they are great do I! However i watch the Red Arrows from my house (1/2 mile from Ashton Court) and it is a very surreal feeling to watch them from your garden. The Red Arrows usually make their appearance to close the show on Sunday afternoon, and can be seen from far and wide.

      --In essence--
      Plan your trip and you wont be disappointed
      For me as a villager, the problems this events causes us, are well worth putting up with because it is great.

      I have a full house every year with friends and family coming to stay! Everyone loves it.

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        28.09.2009 22:58
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        thing to be improved but good day out

        I've wanted to go to a hot air balloon festival for a while with my boyfriend as we used to have one at home when I was younger. We finally got to go to the Balloon Fiesta at Bristol this year (2009).

        Expecting a high turn out we booked our parking as this made it slightly cheaper, only by £1 but we thought that at least we're guaranteed a space. We drove from Bristol centre to the Balloon Fiesta, using sat nav as a guide but also following the road signs that had been put out. These signs were useless and we drove for about an hour more than we should, having gone 'round in a big circle trying to get to the entrance we had been assigned on the parking ticket.

        We finally got there and parked. To say that we'd pre-booked parking it didn't look like we were any where nearer the site than those who hadn't booked, but it did make it slightly faster to get out.

        We had arrived at the site at around 4pm. We wondered in and it was really crowded! We started to wonder around the various stalls. Many were selling goods ranging from clothing to food to jewellery and all sorts. Some were just giving out free samples - I was dying to get some of these however most of the time the queues were far too long! There was also a fun fair part - luckily this was all concentrated in one area and we didn't venture into this.

        There was plenty of things to occupy ourselves until the fly over of the Red Arrows - which we really wanted to see. We headed up to a bit of a hill for this. There was commentry on the PA system but this was rubbish and couldn't be heard! The display itself was, however, good.

        There were toilet scattered around the site. There were portaloos and disgusting and not enough of them.

        The main lift off of balloons was good - although there weren't as many shapes as I've have thought/hoped. Just after this there wasn't really much left to do but wait until the night glow.

        This was quite good - however the sound system damped it a bit.

        Overall quite a good day and worth it but things could be improved!

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          29.07.2009 13:20
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          .

          The Bristol Balloon Fiesta has been running since 1979 and yes it may not sound all that interesting but balloons isn't all there is to it. It's common to have over 100,000 visitors each year and when it only runs for a total of 4 days that's pretty good considering. In 2003 there were so many crowds that they had to close the Clifton Suspension Bridge for fear that it couldn't take the weight of incoming traffic and pedastrians. They have continued to do this each year now.

          It takes place on an estate nearby called Ashton Court which is close to the city centre and even if you were to get lost all you'd have to do is follow the crowds of people.

          Admission is free but car parking will cost around about £7 (you have to get their reasonably early to get a space) You can however pay advanced parking tickets from the website (http://www.bristolfiesta.co.uk) so you can definetly park somewhere.

          Car=£7, Campervan and minibus=£14 and motorbike=£3.50

          What a lot of people do however is park somewhere in the centre and then walk the rest of the way, but it's better to do this if you don't have young children with you.

          Mass launches of the balloons, depending on the weather, happen at 6am and 6pm. When you're watching 100 balloons up in the sky it's always a good sight, especially when they have the special shapes. Things like beer mugs, teletubbies, lighthouses and Homer Simpson.

          As night falls you get to witness the nightglow which always attracts a lot of people so again you need to find a space sooner rather than later to get a good view. Over the four nights they play a series of music and then have the balloons fired up in time to it. Obviously you have to be there to see it to truely enjoy it. After a massive fireworks display always follows, which is going to be the best one you're going to see for a long time.

          In the main arena you can expect to see lots of different attractions and persformances to watch. Ranging from a fire and rescue display, the mass balloon launches, parachuting, motorbike stunts, royal marines and bird launches.

          There are also a series of craft stalls to pick and choose from, fairground rides, bit of advise lots of people seem to throw up around them so be careful where you walk(!)

          Let's be fair if you live in Bristol or around it you must be aware of the fiesta. It's always packed and you get people from all over the world. Literally. Last year there was 5 tour buses parked nearby to us full of tourists from America, China there were 3 particularily friendly ladies from Russia who took a liking to my 3 year old cousin.

          I've been going there since I was knee high to a grasshopper and I've never tired of it as there is always something different being added to it. Even when you've finished for the day there are plenty of food stalls to sit down and eat from.

          This year it's running from the 6th-9th August so you've all got just under a week to get your affairs in order before coming to Bristol to give it a go. If you don't enjoy it you can always go for a bit of shopping as the centre isn't too far away.

          Definetly worth a go, especially if you're stuck for something to do in the summer holidays. It is better if the weather is good naturally but hopefully this year the sun will be shining!

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            11.07.2008 13:15
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            Would recommend a visit from anyone in the general area at the time or with an interest in aviation.

            Bristol Balloon Fiesta is an annual event which is held at the Ashton Court estate in the south of Bristol. As the name suggests it is a collection of balloons. Having run for many years, it is now the biggest such collection of balloons in Europe, and the second biggest in the world, and is the holder of several world records based on the mass acent of balloons.

            Held every year in the summer months, generally August, it attracts in excess of half a million people. Whilst being held for the public from Thursday to Sunday, the week kicks off on the Monday morning before with a launch of about 20 hot air balloons from a location within central Bristol.

            The weekend proper starts in spectacular fashion on the Thursday. There is normally a concert to entertain the crowds, before a mass ascent of the special shaped balloons at about 6pm. Then at about 10pm one of the best sites of the fiesta begins, the balloon glow. Approximately 30 balloons are tethered (fixed) to the ground and then put on their gas burners in time to music, and now that it is dark, the flame lights up the inside of the balloon. The night ends with a spectacular firework display.

            There are two mass ascents on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, one at 6am in the morning and one at 6pm. The mass ascents involve over 100 balloons taking off at a single time. Between these times there are other events such as the red arrows and shows within the main arena, and around the edges there are various stalls and fun fair attractions. On the Saturday night there is a second balloon glow.

            The best bit of the fiesta is there is free entry to the (although there is a charge for parking but this is still under a tenner a day). In addition, there are always many stalls giving out free samples of everything from food and drink through to washing products.

            The weekend is very good if all goes to plan, but is extremely weather dependent, and so if the wind or precipitation is slightly wrong the balloons are unable to fly and even the balloon glow gets cancelled. However, it is very rare for all the main balloon events to get cancelled, due to the fiesta being held over four days, and so it is always worth trying to see it if at all possible, because it truly is an amazing experience.

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              24.08.2003 21:51
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              I am the type of person that gets all excited when I spot one hot air balloon in the sky. I am a big kid when it comes to balloons ? whether they are the helium kind sold for parties or the massive hot air balloons floating through the clouds; I love them all. So I?ll admit that when I heard about the International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol, Europe's biggest hot air balloon show, I just had to go. We had seen the event advertised on GMTV so I logged onto the internet to try and find out more. The website was easy to find at www.bristolfiesta.co.uk and was very comprehensive, providing all of the information I needed. I was surprised to see just how big an event it actually is. Admission is free and the three-day event is sponsored by Vodafone. This year?s was held between August 7-10 and it was the 25th anniversary. The massive event takes place at Ashton Court and is well-signposted when you get into Bristol. Several car parks are set up in fields and cost around £7 to leave your car there for then day. We parked on a nearby pub car park though (a little bit naughty) so avoided the charge. A lot of people were also leaving their cars in side streets and even on grass verges. We only went for the last day of the fiesta (Sunday) and travelled down to Bristol the night before. We stayed in a Travelodge at Severn View services which was a short drive away. Hotels are suggested on the official website but ours was a last minute decision to go and they were all fully booked. While we were traveling down on the Saturday night it was amazing to go along the motorway into Bristol and see the sky literally filled with balloons. Little did we know, these were the only balloons we were to see flying because of bad weather?? We dropped our things off at the hotel and then went to the fiesta in time for the night glow- a feature I had read about on the website. It was amazing. The event was huge and there was a
              massive fairground all lit up against the night sky. There were many places selling food (very overpriced, I have to say- £3 for a pancake!) and lots of people milling around. Local radio station Bristol?s GWR had a huge stage set up where I guessed there had been entertainment throughout the day. For the Night Glow there were 25 hot air balloons on the ground in the main arena and they lit their burners in time with music so they lit up like lightbulbs. They were all choreographed perfectly and it was great to see. Once they had finished a huge fireworks display started. Apparently this was traditionally a Friday night event at the fiesta but they have started doing it on Saturdays too now because of its popularity- I can see why. I couldn?t believe this was all free- its rare these days! We headed back to the hotel and aimed to get up really early as we had read that the balloons had a mass launch at 6am and 6pm the following day. I was really excited about seeing it because I had read that they had over 100 balloons in the main arena that all launch at the same time- it sounded great. We woke up the next morning and it was extremely misty outside so we didn?t bother going until around 10am because there was no way they could have launched. When we left the hotel the sky was clear but there were still no balloons to be seen. We went to get something to eat from one of the stalls and a lady told us they hadn?t launched and would launch at 6pm. To be honest, it seemed a bit strange that they couldn?t launch now the day was bright and sunny. It didn?t bother us too much as there was plenty to look at and we were sure we would see the balloons later in the day. There were lots of little stalls to look around and a craft fair, but one thing that was a bit annoying was the amount of people trying to get you to sign up for credit cards. It was meant to be a family day out and could have done withou
              t the commercialised pressure. The Ministry of Defence had a good stand, as did Vodafone and Utterly Butterly. Events in the main arena included the Kangaroo Kid, who does stunts on a quad bike, which was excellent. He even jumped over a fire engine! The atmosphere was a bit tense while he did that! There were also parachute displays and the Utterly Butterly wing walkers with their plane. A lot of the main arena attractions centred around the fire cadets doing drills, which got a bit boring to watch after the first few times. They really needed more in the main arena to keep people?s attention. One thing that did look good was the balloon inflation race, but again that was cancelled due to the wind. I suppose that is one downfall of holding an event which is so reliant on weather conditions. But to be honest, it was a lovely sunny day- one of the best this year. We had been at the fiesta all morning and had seen everything a couple of times so went to nearby Weston-Super-Mare for the afternoon. We would have probably stayed at the fiesta if the balloons had been in the air but you could tell the event was lacking its main attraction. We returned for the 6pm mass launch thinking we would finally see what we had gone for. The weather was lovely and we could see no reason for it not to go ahead. But we spoke too soon. The launch was cancelled because neighbouring areas had had thunder and they thought it was heading to Bristol. So we headed home- the only balloons we had seen were on our way down while we were on the motorway. To be fair, we weren?t too disappointed because we knew it couldn?t be helped. It was a good event anyway and the night glow was fantastic. We will definitely be going next year because I?m desperate to see all of the balloons!! Looking at the programme for the fiesta, I think the first day is the best to go. They have a mass launch of special-shaped ba
              lloons which are not your traditional balloons but ones shaped like things including Bertie Bassett, a monster, Thomas the Tank Engine and others. Then in the afternoon there was a big free concert which this year included the likes of Busted, Big Brovaz, Kym Marsh, Tiple Eight and Abs. Not bad for free!!

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                13.08.2000 07:06
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                Bristol Balloon Fiesta has to be the main event in a bristolians diary it is run over 3 days with a balloon glow to get things under way prior to the main 3-day event. The fiesta this year runs from the 13th to the 15th of august and it is held in the grounds of Ashton Court just on the outskirts of Bristol. Today I visited this year’s event and having been caught in the traffic chaos of previous years I made the decision to park by Bristol city football ground and walk to the grounds of the balloon fiesta which took about 15mins and saved me £5 in car park charges. Once at the site there is plenty of things to do and plenty of things that make you part with your money especially if you have children. The balloons take to the air twice a day once at around 6.30am and again at around 6.30pm, in between these accents there is a constant program of events going on in the main arena ranging from wing walkers to monster trucks. The mass accent I saw today along with about 40 thousand + others was spectacular, with over 130 balloons taking off in a time span of about 45mins, there were all shapes and sizes ranging from the conventional to Bertie Bassett the liquorice man. As you can imagine with that amount of people attending this event over the 3 ½ days there are a lot of places especially food outlets charging way over the top prices but they know they have a captive market and people will pay these extortionate prices, also the fairground rides are able to charge over the top prices as they also know that the parents will pay them just to keep little jonnie happy. I hope this opinion has not put people off going to see this spectacular event as it is one I would not miss for the world, even if I have to start saving now to go next year (just to pay for the food and fairground rides for my son). As I said earlier I parked well away from the actual balloon site and walked, well as you can imagine when all the
                balloons have taken off, so all the crowds of people start to leave and this is where if you park on the site itself you can expect to be in a traffic jam for a minimum of 2 hours just trying to get out of the car park.

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