Balloon Fiesta 2010

This year's ASTRA Bristol International Balloon Fiesta took place at Ashton Court from August 12th-15th.

Thursday August 12th

The first day of the ASTRA Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and I headed over to Ashton Court to check out my first ever Night Glow.

I'd heard a lot about the fiesta and as this was my first time, I was very excited to see what was on offer.

Plenty of people turned up for the HSBC Night Glow and I'm sure they weren't disappointed. Such a spectacular view on a beautiful evening.

Friday August 13th

I had to be up at 4:30am for my first ever balloon ride! I've always wanted to do this and now was my chance.

Arriving on site, pilots, crew and passengers were patiently waiting for the latest weather report. We got the all clear!

My pilot was Denis Burton Pilatre from 'Pilatre De Rozier' in France. Denis explained to me the process of getting prepared and I was ready to help as much as possible.

It's quite strange how easy it was and how it all compacted into one van. The canopy was laid out on the floor and stretched out. Denis then asked me to hold open the mouth as he started the cold fan to expand the balloon. When it got big enough, the flames shot from the burners to get the balloon to stand. The heat was good for that time of the morning.

It only took about 10 minutes before the balloon was fully inflated. Denis and his crew asked me to step into the basket, a few final checks and we were ready to go.

It's a funny feeling being in a wicker basket, hovering above the city in a big balloon, but also very serene. Because you go with the wind, it's very calm up there and, of course, you get spectacular views.

Denis flew us across from Ashton Court and the wind took us towards Hengrove, taking in the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bedminster Down and Hengrove Park along the way. We landed at the Oasis Academy. It was quite a bumpy landing, but that was due to the wind suddenly rushing around us.

After landing (and kissing the ground!) Denis had to radio his drivers for our location and whilst they headed our way, we packed up the balloon and relaxed for a while.

It truly was a fantastic experience and I had total trust in my pilot. If you ever get the chance to do it, don't turn it down!

When I arrived back at Ashton Court, some of the special shaped balloons were tethered, including the enormous motorbike and the Palletways Dragon.

There were plenty of other things to see and do. I met Mickey Mouse in the Disney Clubhouse and watched the fantastic Black Cat Helicopter Display.

Unfortunately, the Mass Ascent didn't take place on Friday evening due to the weather.

Saturday August 14th

My sister and my nephews came down from Birmingham to experience the Balloon Fiesta. The weather meant that the Mass Ascent didn't take place on Saturday morning, but fingers were crossed for the evening one.

I worked in the Heart Alfresco Zone with the Heart Angels, meeting lots of you and getting Snapped .

To keep the crowds entertained, the Black Cat Helicopters performed their scary-but-entertaining routine. Hats off to the pilots.

There was a major downpour in the afternoon, meaning the balloons couldn't be tethered in the arena, but we were still hoping the ascent and the night glow would take place later on.

Suddenly, a big patch of blue sky came over Ashton Court, so some of the balloons started to inflate. However, when it came to the time of the ascent, the weather let us down once again.

Saturday evening's Milka Night Glow did take place however and once again it didn't disappoint.

Sunday August 15th

This was the perfect and final day for the Balloon Fiesta. Sunshine all day long. Thousands of people flocked down to get a glimpse of what was on offer at this spectacular free event.

Again, I was in the Heart Alfresco Zone. If you came down and got Snapped , have a look for your picture.

Also, during the afternoon, the famous Red Arrows entertained the crowds with their dramatic display of aeronautic stunts.

I was preparing myself for another Balloon ride, this time with the guys from Blue Square.com.

I met up with our pilot, Piers, who I found out was the Midlands (like me!). Piers was waiting for the go ahead with the weather and then the confirmation came across the radio.

Piers got to work on inflating the balloon. Blue Square had two balloons at the Fiesta - the square one and the round one. Piers thought it'd be best to go in the round one due to the weather constantly changing.

Once inflated, we were ready to go. The Mass Ascent had already started and we were to join the others. The line was released and off we soared into the skyline with thousands below cheering and waving.

Going in the evening had so many benefits with watching the sunset across Bristol City.

We flew past the Suspension Bridge and headed towards the Cadbury's Factory in Keynsham. Piers pointed out the different areas and landmarks along the way. The Blue Square balloon silently drifted along the skyline at a low enough level to wave at the people below.

As the sun began to come down, we landed in Keynsham to a crowd of people, who cheered as Piers landed the balloon safely.

Thanks so much to Piers and his crew and Blue Square.com who let me have this fantastic opportunity. It will live in my memory forever.

Despite the poor weather, an estimated 500,000 people enjoyed the ASTRA Bristol International Balloon Fiesta over the 4 days. I really can't wait until next year's!

Video: Balloon Fiesta Highlights

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