Events from small ‘meets’ of a dozen or so balloons to major festivals of 100 balloons or more are held throughout the country during the year. These events usually feature, weather permitting, mass ascents morning and evening. Those open to the public often offer an after-dark ’nightglow’, in which tethered balloons fire their burners in time to music to create a colourful spectacle.
To help you enjoy viewing the balloons at events, here are some useful tips:
• Take a camera – balloons are highly photogenic
• Wear layers of clothes – it’s often quite cool in the early mornings in the UK, and can be chilly in the evenings for nightglows
• Wear flat and comfy shoes or boots
• Tune in to local weather reports – if it’s forecast to be very windy or foggy, or there’s a risk of thunderstorms, check with the meet organisers, but be prepared to do something else!
• Be prepared for an early start – morning flights take off at about 07:00; evening flights take off at about 18:00 hours in the UK summer time
• Bring the family – larger balloon events often include funfairs, trade stands, kite-flying, classic cars and other attractions during the day between balloon ascents
• Park your vehicle considerately and keep access and thoroughfares clear
• Buy a programme, at larger events, and spot the different balloons in the guide pages (see Balloon Spotting)
• Bring something to do during the day between morning and evening flights (if there are not organised events for the public), or check out local attractions
• Take a picnic and make a day of it
• Smile and wave to the balloonists and they’ll return the compliment!
Via its journal Aerostat, the BBAC maintains a constantly updated calendar of major balloon events, and meets organised by regional affiliated balloon clubs. Although the latter are not generally open to members of the public, you can access them – and get involved in ballooning at a grass roots level – by joining the BBAC and/or a regional club.
Major annual balloon fiestas in the UK that are open to the public include:
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta