The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, taking place from 9th to 12th August 2018, and I was lucky enough to be there on opening night for the famous Night Glow.

Sadly the mass ascent planned for Thursday evening was cancelled due to high winds, but the early bird catches the worm, and those that were up at dawn on Saturday morning were able to see one of the two mass ascents that did go ahead this year.

So what is the big deal with the Balloon Fiesta? And why do Bristolians wake at dawn and eagerly search the skies every August?

Firstly, it’s not just Bristolians. Over the past 40 years, it really has become an international phenomenon. Last year we even had a couple from China that had travelled here to say their wedding vows at the festival.

It’s huge! The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’s largest annual gathering of hot air balloons, attracting visitors from all over Europe as well as further afield. 2018 saw over 150 balloons taking part.

Free entry – there’s no fee to attend, and while there is ample parking on site (charges apply), there are also free shuttle buses to and from the city centre.

Community and charity focus – every year the festival supports a local charity. This years charity is St Peters Hospice. The event organisers also offer work experience and work shadowing placements to those interested in a career in events management, marketing, media and hospitality.

The vintage fun fair attracts visitors of all ages, with classic rides proving a hit with the younger generation, bringing truth to the phrase everything old is new again.

Mass ascents – there is something uniquely spectacular about a horde of balloons all taking off at dawn/ dusk and floating over the iconic landmarks of Bristol and over the horizon.

Night glow and firework finale! – This is an unusual phenomenon to those that have never witnessed it. Tethered hot air balloons firing up and glowing in time to music. It sounds weird but it is so awesome in person. Here’s a little taste.

Sadly I was flying solo this year as my children were away visiting family. The Balloon Fiesta is one of the highlights of their summer, and I was almost feeling guilty for enjoying it alone… almost 😉

Did you attend this year? Share your pics on the socials!

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