Balloon fiesta gets ready to take to the skies
THE Bristol International Balloon Fiesta gets under way today with more than 500,000 visitors expected to visit Ashton Court over the weekend.
Now in its 34th year, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe's largest annual hot air balloon event and one of the UK's top five outdoor events.
The free event, sponsored this year by Jones Lang LaSalle, kicks off today with the popular Special Shapes Rodeo and the evening Night Glow.
This year there are 13 special shapes set to wow the crowds, including the Palletways' smoke- breathing 61ft Slick the Dragon, Monster.com, Jaguar XK8, the George White Motorbike, Woody Woodpecker, Blue Square, Babybel, the Panasonic Battery, and the huge Churchill Nodding Dog
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Twice daily mass ascents – weather permitting – will take place from tomorrow to Sunday at 6am and 6pm and feature up to 150 balloons on the Bristol skyline.
Tomorrow night, for the first time in the event's history, a Friday Night IlluminAir takes place with an aerobatics performance at dusk which will light up the night skies.
Saturday afternoon will include a Spitfire memorial flight, and a performance by the UK's premier military parachute display team, the RAF Falcons.
On Sunday afternoon the Fiesta will see its first ever aerobatic display from The Blades, a spectacular four-plane stunt team flown by some of the most experienced display pilots in the UK. Visitors can see a 15-minute show that will include a sequence of over 30 separate adrenaline-fuelled manoeuvres.
The world famous night glows take place tonight and Saturday with balloons lighting up in time to music.
This year the National Beacon, which was the centrepiece of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert and was lit by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, will make an appearance.
The huge 3m x 3.5m Diamond shaped National Beacon was the last in a series of 4,000 smaller beacons lit across the commonwealth during the celebrations.
Its appearance at the Fiesta night glows will be the first public display since the Jubilee, and will be a homecoming for the beacon's burner, which was produced in Bristol by Cameron Balloons.
Throughout the festival Ashton Court will host a "Summer Set" zone as well as a bandstand programmed with local up and coming bands.
A new sports zone will showcase the skills of local community groups who will be encouraging visitor participation in everything from boxing to free running.
While young festival goers can enjoy a helter-skelter and big wheel as well as a dedicated kids' zone where children will can make their own miniature hot air balloons.
Noah's Ark Zoo returns to the festival with a host of animals, including reindeer, rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks, an African spotted eagle owl and a boa constrictor.
Visitors will also have the chance to walk through a life-size replica of the world's largest science experiment.
The event will host the replica of the Large Hadron Collider, which was built in Geneva to try and explain why meaning has mass.
Festival goers will also have the chance to walk through a new art installation called SoundSpiral.
Inside 42 recorded voices speak the same specially commissioned prose in 42 different languages as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The Bristol Food Court will feature local restaurants and suppliers including Jolly Hog and Sausage, The Creperie, Soul Burger, Tom's Pies and Simply Strawberries.
Privilege car parking guaranteeing a space in the closest parking area is available for £10 a day.
Users get a dedicated entrance with easier access on and off site and an event programme.
Advanced car parking is also available for £6 per car per day, guaranteeing a space within a short distance of the showground and a dedicated entrance and exit to the site.
As well as securing a parking space closer to the Fiesta site, by booking in advance purchasers also get a discount of £4 – on the day car parking is charged at £10.
For more information and to buy advance car parking visit www.bristol balloonfiesta.co.uk.