There was a frisson of expectation and joy in the air at Bristol’s International Balloon Fiesta held at Ashton Court, and the first after three years so appreciated more than ever.

By chance, I found out about the event a few years ago. On a return trip from London back to Cornwall, I had marvelled at several colourful air balloons worthy of the adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days gliding towards clouds. I’ve always found them alluring and painted a large watercolour of one in my arty-crafty days.

I later found out about Bristol’s annual balloon fiesta and Mr Word Loft and I planned to go the following year, but then Covid struck.

This year it was the 42nd extravaganza and we dashed from one cluster of trees to another to have a break from the searing sun. In between, we browsed many of the business stands and were entertained along the way by music from small stages such as the Victorian Bandstand, and the Brizzle Kicks with Pip and Posy family area.

A fairground with an old-fashioned Helter Skelter and Carousel was the perfect backdrop for the balloons in the Launch Field below.

They were due to ascend at 6 O’Clock, but with murmurs about the temperature being too hot and the breeze blowing in the wrong direction – the outlook wasn’t good. Along with thousands of others, we optimistically found a spot to watch and spread our picnic blanket. The array of balloon designs in different shapes and sizes was amazing as they expanded with the glorious sound of burners as heat rushed inside.

We waited eagerly, but the signs revealed there wouldn’t be a mass take-off. Nature had had the last word but fear not, there was still the nightglow experience to look forward to at 9 O’Clock. Conditions never allowed the balloons to drift into the evening sky throughout the long weekend, but social media showed they were sensational at 6 0’ Clock in the morning.

With a  couple of hours until the finale, we viewed stalls on the other side of the estate, where aromas of food from all over the world set our mouths watering, so we settled down again and tucked into tomatoey pasta bowls.

Dusk became night. Even the moon seemed influenced by the spectacular occasion to come. Orb-like and orange, it rose gently over the fairground twinkling behind a crowd of deflated balloons waiting to perform.

The volume of BBC Radio Bristol’s soundtrack increased, and the audience was taken on a Disneyesque journey around Bristol, celebrating its triumphs and the folk living there as the balloons inflated. Lights danced through them in time to popular favourites. A truly magical and awe-inspiring show!

Until next time,
Sue. X