The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta was founded on the weekend of the 7th-9th September 1979. A small gathering of like-minded balloonists came together to celebrate the first ever Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, at the popular ballooning location, Ashton Court.
Spectators witnessed a mass ascent of 27 balloons attending the Fiesta and marvelled at the many other flights made throughout the weekend. Most balloons came from the West Country, while others came from Ireland, Luxembourg and West Germany. From this small beginning, the Fiesta has grown year on year, flourishing into what has become Europe's largest free annual hot air balloon festival. Today, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta attracts over 100 hot air balloons and is witnessed by 500,000 followers over the four days of the event.
The Fiesta has become as much of an icon for Bristol as Brunel, Wallace and Gromit or Concorde. The fiesta is a charity, run by a committee and remains free of charge to the public, in line with the ethos of how it was founded.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta Limited is a not-for-profit organisation, operated by a Board of Trustee Directors:
The Flying Committee is responsible for the operation of Hot Air Balloons and their teams throughout the Fiesta weekend and during Fiesta launches across the rest of the year:
The Fiesta features twice daily mass ascents, with balloons taking off from a dedicated arena at the centre of Ashton Court Estate.
Ballooning is very weather and wind dependent so the decision to fly is left to the last minute when the flying committee announce with a smoke cannon whether it is safe for pilots to take to the skies. This jeopardy is a big part of ballooning and adds to the magic when we have perfect conditions to fly.
A typical Fiesta day starts with the amazing morning mass ascent, as balloons of all shapes and sizes drift gently away across the city and out into the surrounding countryside. Some balloons, especially those operated by our Historic and Model balloon enthusiasts, remain tethered in the arena. Spectacular Special Shape balloons also take part (everyone has their favourite). In the early afternoon, as well as marvelling at the tethered balloons, why not take the opportunity to chat to pilots and their crews and have a closer look at their equipment in our new event ‘MEET THE TEAMS’. The second mass ascent takes place in the early evening followed, on Thursday and Saturday, by the legendary and magical NIGHT GLOWS, when the balloons light up to a soundtrack provided by BBC Radio Bristol. The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta Arena features entertainment throughout the weekend.
Find your spot around the ballooning arena to catch all the action, or head out to explore Ashton Court Estate and our 100 traders and activities for families and children of all ages. Don’t miss our acoustic bandstand, jam-packed with local bands throughout the event.