Bristol International Balloon Fiesta lifts off for 2016


Great Western Ambulance named as official charity partner

An incredible 140 hot air balloons have been selected to take off from Ashton Court Estate at this year’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, after a record-breaking level of interest.

The crews and balloons will travel from all over the world to fly familiar favourites as well as some new additions over the city of Bristol from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 August, creating an amazing spectacle for the half a million visitors that attend Europe’s largest annual ballooning event

The morning ‘Breakfast and Balloons’ mass ascents at 6am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be accompanied by a soundtrack courtesy of Classic FM.

Visitors are encouraged to arrive early and get a good spot in time for the evening ascents at 6pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and those looking for a sneak peek at the special shapes can watch the first dedicated ascent on Thursday night at 6pm.

Those staying into the evening can take in the spectacle of the famous nightglows, a stunning sight when 30 balloons stand tall and light up in time to music as night falls. The Night Glows will take place on Thursday 11 and Saturday 13 August at approximately 9.15pm. As the balloons finish their performance, the skies light up over Ashton Court Estate to spectacular fireworks by Skyburst at 9.30pm on both nights.

For visitors planning on driving the event, this year, car parking tickets will 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.

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) has been chosen as the fiesta’s official partner for 2016.

The charity’s helicopter will be an integral part of the four-day event and over the course of the weekend, GWAAC staff and volunteers will be mingling with the estimated half a million visitors the Fiesta attracts aiming to raise £25,000 – which is what it would cost to keep their helicopter operational for four days.

From racing to remote spots where people have suffered life-threatening injuries to making sure sick children can be flown to Bristol’s specialist hospital, the air ambulance covers Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, North Somerset and parts of Wiltshire from its base at Filton.

But although it provides a vital, lifesaving service and is part of the regional 999 network, the GWAAC receives no day to day Government or Lottery cash, and needs to raise its own funds. It costs around £2.3m to keep the team flying each year.

The Critical Care Team is available to those who need it seven days a week, 365 days a year and they attends more than 100 incidents every month. The Bristol air ambulance is one of the busiest in the UK and is effectively a flying accident and emergency department with a specialist doctor and critical care paramedic on board.

The GWAAC helicopter will be on site at this year’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and the team will perform demonstrations to entertain and educate the crowds.

GWWAC chief executive John Christensen said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as the official partner for the balloon fiesta. It is a key part of Bristol’s event calendar, and as the local air ambulance for the city we are looking forward to being involved in it. It is a great chance for us to not only raise the much needed funds to keep us going, but also to promote the work that we do. We hope as many people as possible who visit the festival during the four days come and talk to us, and have a look at our helicopter. They are looking to recruit 50 volunteers for each day of the fiesta, working across a range of roles including marshalling the helicopter, carrying out bucket collections and selling merchandise and raffle tickets.

Sue Atkinson, chair of the organising committee for Bristol International Balloon Fiesta explains: “The Great Western Air Ambulance Charity save lives regularly across the region and we’re delighted to have them on board as our official charity for this year’s fiesta.

“We’re looking forward to getting this partnership started and working closely with the charity to raise awareness and the vital funds needed to keep the operation going so they can continue to provide the lifesaving emergency care they do.”

The helicopter will be just one of many colourful craft in the skies as 140 hot air balloons have been selected to take off from Ashton Court as part of the mass ascents at this year’s event. This follows record-breaking interest from balloonists around the world.


To book car parking tickets please visit or to find out more about this year’s event follow @BristolBalloon on Instagram and Twitter, or

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