News / Arts

Preview: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2016

By bristol247, Wednesday Aug 10, 2016

Ashton Court will once again play host to Europe’s largest ballooning event as the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta returns from August 11-14.

More than 100 hot air balloons will take off at dawn and dusk, and light up the skies at night with evening balloon glows.

The four days of colourful balloon displays are set to attract half a million visitors, with entertainment for all the family throughout the day including aerial displays, fairground rides, food stalls and bars, balloon tethering, model aircraft displays, and a local music stage. 

People who make it to the site for the dawn ascents on Saturday and Sunday can enjoy the mass lift off to the sound of classical music. 

For the evening ascents, visitors are encouraged to arrive early to get a good spot to watch pilots inflate the balloons and take off en masse at 6pm. Visitors looking for a sneak peek at the special shapes can watch them ascend for the first time on Thursday at 6pm.

Late night visitors can take in the spectacle of the night glows, as 30 teams lighting up their balloons in time to music as night falls. The Night Glows take place on Thursday and Saturday at approximately 9.15pm. As the balloons finish their performance, the skies light up over Ashton Court to fireworks.

The Fiesta funfair will return as usual, but this year has been reduced in size to make space for Bristol’s own Cirque Bijou to show off their skills. A mixture of acrobatics, street theatre and circus stunts, the group will bring a new element to the entertainment in Ashton Court.

Younger visitors coming to see the Cirque Bijou show can also take part in junk modelling workshops, face painting and learn some circus skills themselves. Popular festival entertainers the Desperate Men will also be on hand with their balloon toss act.

Also added to the Fiesta’s programme this year is a bandstand where crowds can take a seat and listen to some of the best local bands and solo performers.

The number and variety of food outlets at the Balloon Fiesta has been expanded this year to provide something for every taste, from pizza to prosecco.

This year’s Fiesta will see the world premiere of Luke Jerram’s latest artwork, The Museum of the Moon, measuring seven metres across and using exact data collected from NASA to make the moon as realistic as possible.

The moon is made by Bristol company Cameron Balloons and will be illuminated after dark. For people who want to study the real moon, staff from At-Bristol will be close to the artwork offering the chance to study the moon through high-precision binoculars, and running lunar-themed games and workshops for children during the day.

For visitors planning on driving to the event, this year, car parking tickets are only be available to purchase in advance. Those with car parking tickets must arrive at the site by 5pm on the day of entry to guarantee access to the event.

First Bus will be running a regular shuttles to the Fiesta site, while there will also be plenty of space for people to leave their bikes if they want to cycle to Ashton Court.

For more information, visit


Main photo by Paul Box /

Read more: 13 of the best Balloon Fiesta shapes

Latest articles