Bristol

Bristol's 37th International Balloon Fiesta gets under way

Start of the mass ascent Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A mass ascent of balloons is scheduled for 06:00 and 18:00 BST on Friday, Saturday and Sunday

The 37th International Balloon Fiesta has begun in Bristol, with the ascent of the first balloons.

Thousands headed to Ashton Court for the nightglow at 21:15 BST, where tethered balloons lit their burners in time to music.

More than 100 balloons are taking part in the event including one bearing the Tibetan flag.

Pilot Heaven Crawley, said people claiming to represent the Chinese Embassy had tried to get it banned.

"We understand from some of the organisers of the events we've been trying to attend - there has been some communication from people claiming to be from the Chinese Embassy suggesting that we don't fly," she said.

"But we've been told that we're able to fly - so tomorrow morning, we'll be here flying over Bristol."

Image caption The pilot and owner of the Tibetan flag balloon, said people claiming to represent the Chinese Embassy had been trying to get it banned from events

A mass ascent of balloons is scheduled for 06:00 and 18:00 BST on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

This year's festival will also see the maiden flight of the world's first solar-powered balloon.

The balloon was made in Bedminster and is a hybrid aircraft, partially powered by the sun and partially powered by a conventional propane burner.

It is being launched at the fiesta to mark the city's status as the UK's first European Green Capital.

'Tricky wind'

Other attractions include arena events, a flypast by the RAF Battle of Britain Display Team and a display by the Breitling Wing Walkers.

A second nightglow is also planned for Saturday evening.

BBC weather forecaster Ian Fergusson said wind could be "a potentially tricky issue", but said it should "steadily moderate into this evening".

"On Friday, winds will be light, meaning the prospect of balloon flights is good," he said.

For safety reasons, Clifton Suspension Bridge will be closed to traffic and pedestrians between 18:00 BST until midnight on Thursday and Saturday.

An event spokesman said visitors should plan their journey in advance, arrive early and be patient with fellow visitors.

Full details about getting to the Ashton Court by car, bus or on foot can be found on the fiesta's website.

Entry to the fiesta is free but there are charges for parking.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A mass ascent of balloons is scheduled for 06:00 and 18:00 BST on Friday, Saturday and Sunday

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