By Priyanka Raval
This year’s 35th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta took off in true Bristol style! And what a hustlin’-bustlin’, rip roaring, flame burning, basket swinging extravaganza it was: 500,000 people visiting, 284 balloons taking off, a Fiesta recording breaking 74 balloons landing in the same place on Saturday morning, three wedding proposals taking place and one woman going into labour on site! No wonder it was hailed by organisers as one of the best Fiestas in years. Just as the Balloon Fiesta is a one of the focal points for my Bristol Love, it is also the epicentre for balloonists and enthusiasts internationally. Attracting people from Japan to Germany it has become the biggest festival in Europe. Given the breath-taking sight of the straight-off-a-postcard beauty of Bristol’s sky when it’s dotted with multi-coloured balloons lackadaisically gliding over the city, it is no wonder the Fiesta consistently attracts it is no wonder it consistently attracts and enchants so many people. The Balloon Fiesta is truly one of Bristol’s most iconic events.
The Fiesta being such an intrinsic part of the city, it felt only natural that the Pound should have a presence there, and thanks to Bailey Balloons- who are one of the latest businesses to sign up to the Bristol Pound- we were. The Bristol Pound team are delighted that Bailey Balloons have signed up to the scheme. Run by Joe and Clive Bailey, Bailey balloons are located in Bristol, offering hot air balloon flights from Bristol, Bath and South Wales. They bring a great deal of skills and passion to their business and are a significant presence at the Fiesta.
So to celebrate, in the early hours of Sunday morning’s mass ascent, the Major of Bristol George Ferguson went up for a Bailey Balloon ride which he paid for in Bristol Pounds. I arose at Sunday at dawn as well and set off to Ashton Court to meet him. Standing beneath the enormous balloons towering above me, jostling for space and preparing for take off, a typically red trouser clad Mr Ferguson came bounding along, shook my hand, announced his enthusiasm for the Bristol Pound and handed over the £B’s to Clive Bailey.
Watching George and an excited bunch of people gliding high up through the sky, I could not help but contemplate how Bristol Pound really is reaching new heights. The joining of Baileys Balloons is a testament to the variety and the diversity of the local independent traders involved in the scheme. The Bristol Pound now has over six hundred businesses, over 1,200 Bristol Pound account holders and more than a quarter of a million converted from sterling into Bristol Pounds, which shows that the scheme is being really woven into the fabric of the city.
So there you have it, the Bristol Pound is not just hot air, but actually, really taking off!