Now in its 36th year, Bristol Balloon Fiesta, produced by Richmond Event Management (REM), last week attracted around 500,000 people despite the weather.
The figures are yet to be confirmed, but the event, now Europe’s biggest Ballooning event (7-10 August) started as a small meet of balloons and now regularly features more than 100 balloons taking off at once, with 124 rising the skies on Friday morning last week (8 August).
Renowned balloonist and founder of Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Don Cameron said: “I always put it down to drink, it started in the gliding club bar, a few of us got together and we created the first balloon on this side of the Atlantic and that was the humble beginnings of the development of the Bristol Belle, Western Europe’s first ever modern day hot air balloon. The Balloon Fiesta has become a bit of an institution. When we started it we had less than 17 balloons and we had no infrastructure at all, we just gathered in the park”
The event attracted pilots and visitors from across the UK and Europe and as far away as the United States with over 500,000 people expected to attend over the weekend.
Project Manager Ben Hardy of Richmond Event Management added: “We still had 325 Balloons in the air over the entire event and visitor numbers were still sustained. Aside from the weather, it is the unique nature of ballooning that is the biggest challenge for the event. it’s not quite like having Beyonce performing on a stage, we have to accommodate arrival patterns of the balloonists into the arena, then also the departures of the balloons, as they have to make sure the wind patterns are perfect for departure. Flexibility is the key and we’ve battled this with use of a simple flow chart, rather than rigid time lists which we use in other types of events.”
Increased national media coverage and TV news coverage from the main channels means that in the future, Hardy believes that the overall commercial offering has to be adapted: “Planning for next year’s event starts in September, with a 2 month de-brief” Moving forward the immediate challenge of next year’s event seems to be as a commercial asset “we have to start looking at alternatives to activation on site for sponsors, probably with new website and social media offerings. This year we introduced Event TV for the first time which was another important facet of the event and with the event being self financing, we have to continue to be creative with these options,” he added.
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