Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2021: Mass ascent from secret location marks start of fortnight of events

Balloons take off from Filton. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Dozens of hot air balloons filled the skies above Bristol for the city’s annual fiesta – with the take-off site remaining a secret to prevent crowds from gathering.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is the largest annual hot air balloon event in Europe and normally attracts more than 500,000 visitors.

But this year organisers decided to cancel the usual on-the-ground activities at the Ashton Court estate for the second year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, a Fiesta Fortnight supported by Costa Coffee and featuring hundreds of balloons lifting off from different locations in Bristol, will take place until August 15.

On Wednesday, the first mass ascent took place from Elm Park in Filton, north Bristol. A total of 30 balloons set off from the park, which was suggested by local residents, from 6.30am.

Scroll down for a gallery of pictures.

  • Watch - live from the first mass ascent of Fiesta Fortnight

Chris Allcock, chair of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, said: “It’s wonderful – the sun is shining and it’s a still morning.

“People in north Bristol will see 30 balloons drifting over incredibly slowly so they will have ample time to take lovely photographs.

“It’s a big joy to have the balloons here. Last year we could do very, very little but we’ve got a plan for this year and we’re going to have balloons all over Bristol for the Fiesta Fortnight.”

More than 700 places in Bristol were submitted by residents to help organisers pick the locations of where the balloons will take off from during the event.

These included local parks, public spaces, car parks and streets.

Mr Allcock added: “There were some clear winners and favourite locations for balloons to fly from, highlighted from the hundreds of suggestions from fiesta fans.

“This first flight at Elm Park was the first time the fiesta has ever flown from this part of the city.”

Nick Orrin, director of Costa Express UK&I, said the company was proud to be a partner for such a “fantastic event”.

“After what has been an unprecedented time for many, we wanted to give something exciting to the Bristol community to enjoy,” he said.

  • In pictures: Mass ascent marks start of 'Fiesta Fortnight'

The usual fiesta at Ashton Court has been replaced by 'Fiesta Fortnight' with flypasts around the city. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA
The stunning spectacle was kept a secret to stop crowds from gathering. Credit: PA
The mass ascent took off from Filton. Credit: PA
The balloons took off from a park in Filton. Credit: PA
Balloons slowly floated over north Bristol Credit: Ben Birchall/PA
The final list of locations for other ascents will be revealed on the Fiesta Fortnight’s social media channels. Credit: PA