Bristol-built Darth Vader balloon returns to city for International Balloon Fiesta

The Darth Vader balloon flies over Bristol's iconic suspension bridge. Credit: ITV West Country

A giant Darth Vader-head hot air balloon has flown over Bristol for the first time ever, despite being built in the city.

The eye-catching balloon took to the skies during the 2019 International Balloon Festival after a fundraising campaign raised enough money to bring it home.

It took part in the first ever Thursday mass ascent at Ashton Court after organisers changed the schedule because of forecast bad weather. It proved to be the only launch at the fiesta.

  • Watch "Dark Lord Rising" - the Darth Vader balloon makes its debut at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

Built in Bristol in 2007 by Cameron Balloons, the Darth Vader head has flown all over the world including Australia, the USA, China, and Malaysia.

Now the masterpiece has come home to Bristol after more than £4,500 was raised to support its return.

The Star Wars balloon preparing for take off from Ashton Court in Bristol. Credit: PA

Balloon manufacturer Cameron is not the Darth Vader-head's only connection to Bristol. Actor and body builder Dave Prowse, who played the character in the Star Wars movies, is from the city, even if the villain was voiced by James Earl Jones.

Bristol's Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, signing autographs in 2013. Credit: PA

The 2019 Bristol Balloon Fiesta is the 41st year the event has taken place. Chair Chris Allcock welcomed the return of Darth Vader to the city.

A fundraising campaign succeeded in raising enough money to bring the balloon to Bristol. Credit: Plaster Communications

The Darth Vader-head had a bit of a journey before reaching Bristol.

Though its permanent home is in Belgium, the structure was transported to the West Country from Taiwan where it flew in the Taiwan International Balloon Festival.

What goes up, must come down - residents help trample the air out of the Darth Vader balloon. Credit: Dani Phillips

The Dark Lord had a somewhat inelegant finish after its debut flight in Bristol on Thursday 8 August. It landed in a field in the city and members of the community rallied round to trample the air out of its famous head so that it could be packed away.

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