Bristol’s 34th International Balloon Fiesta 2012
The 34th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2012 was one of the most uplifting events I have every attended (pardon the pun)!
Europe’s largest annual hot-air balloon festival is held at Ashton Court in Bristol and attracts around 500,00 members of the public to the free event. The 4 day fiesta includes the ascent of 100 or more hot-air balloons which take to the sky at 6am and 6pm daily – weather permitting.
Getting to and from the fiesta could not have been easier. Bus No. 1 and Bus No. 2 served the public during the four days at a cost of just £2.00 per ticket.
Not having visited the fiesta before I was rather dubious as to how these busses would cope with the vast numbers of people attending the evening balloon ascents, nightglows, firework displays, funfairs, and aerobatic displays. I need not have worried. The yellow busses were all to hand (in fact they were all lined up ready and waiting) at the rendezvous bus stops during the event. The bus drivers were brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed chatting to everyone.
Don Cameron was an aeronautical engineer working for BAC (Bristol Aeroplane Company) in Filton during the early 1960’s. His passion for planes spilled over into most weekends and became a member of the Bristol Gliding Club. An article in the National Geographic Magazine (given him by club member Giles Bulmer), informed him of a new type of balloon that had just been invented in the USA. Inspired, motivated and dedicated (and not without its difficulties) Don Cameron managed to eventually produce the ‘Bristol Belle’ hot-air balloon. It flew on 9th July 1967 and was the first modern hot-air balloon in Western Europe.
Don continued to build balloons, eventually resigning from BAC Filton, and founded Cameron Balloons Limited. A few of Don’s memorable flights included a flight over the Sahara Desert, a flight over the Alps, and also Don’s first attempt to fly the Atlantic in 1978 – unfortunately this ended in the sea 100 miles from France!
Chatting to fellow enthusiasts, and members of the Bristol Junior Chamber, the idea of a fiesta for balloons was born, and in 1979 the first Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court has held.
Well done Don – an inspiration to us all. Somehow looking up on a summer evening, or early morning when the skies are blue, and glimpsing a hot-air balloon or two over Bristol brings a smile to my face; to see over 100 hot-air balloons during the fiesta weekend left me with a broad grin! A big thank you – it was brilliant.