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Up, up and away at the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival

Built around the mass ascent of dozens of hot air balloons, the Tiverton Balloon & Music Festival has plenty for those with their feet firmly on the ground.
There’s nothing more lovely than catching sight of a colourful hot air balloon drifting over the Devon hills – and thousands of people seem to agree. The attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year on the second weekend in July, from Friday through Sunday.

The highlight of this fabulous event, for me at least, is seeing the mass balloon ascent. Listen to the roar of powerful gas jets as they open up “full throttle” to lift the enormous balloons with their passenger cargo dangling in tiny baskets beneath. It’s a great sight to witness, and even more fun to actually participate in!

Hot air balloons are no longer the traditional balloon shape – you will see all sizes and shapes from colourful cockerels to giant underwear – all in the name of advertising, of course. Each evening, after the mass balloon ascent, the sky lights up with fire and light shows and live music adds to the pleasant ambience beneath the starry sky.

What’s happening at the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival

The event is held at the Tiverton High School and Petroc Campus on Bolham Road in Tiverton. Building on its previous successes, this annual event includes hot air balloon rides, competitions, children’s entertainment, live music and plenty of food and drink.

I would definitely recommend visitors aim to spend the evening at the event as the Night Glow show is truly amazing to watch on the Friday and Saturday evenings around 9:50pm. This includes a fire and light show as balloons are choreographed to music accompanied by a lantern processions and fire jugglers. It’s an amazing spectacle.

The weekend starts at 3pm on Friday with a music programme and “alternative” World Cup matches between children, youth and seniors teams. There’s a drum workshop before the Evening Ascent between 6:30pm and 8:30pm, weather permitting. There’s also a comedy Night, Open Mic and Stunt Flying Displays of helicopters, albeit radio-controlled ones!

On the Saturday the first viewing and ascent is between 6am and 8am with a variety of balloon competitions in the afternoon and the chance to see the tethered balloons up-close and talk to the pilots and crew. To further enhance the sky-balloon theme, there is an onsite planetarium learning dome which opens at 1:30pm, although balloons are not recommended to head for outer space!

See the Wellington Majorettes, join the Children’s Drum Workshop, cheer on the Alternative World Cup teams, attend more workshops or watch a Falconry Display. The evening includes a second Mass Ascent, followed by a Hot Air Night Glow event, music and comedy.

Sunday follows a similar pattern for the Morning Ascent and workshops along with a Car Boot Sale from 7:30am for early visitors. There is a final Mass Ascent, Stunt Flying Displays, live music and drumming before the event closes at midnight.

Live musical entertainment

With live music on a couple of stages and plenty of bars and catering stalls it is a great way to spend a summer evening.

Throughout the weekend there is a Shoppers’ Pavilion with a whole range of trade stands selling crafts, artwork, food and gift items. For children there are free STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) workshops making spectroscopes and magic bead bracelets along with bouncy castles and fairground rides.

Devon food and drink

There is a dedicated Devon Food Festival Pavilion at the Tiverton Balloon Festival which is well worth heading for rather than bringing your own picnic lunch. It is packed with stalls featuring local food and drink – and you can taste samples first.

Cold meat, cooked duck breast, pickles and preserves, jam, homemade cakes, ice cream, pasties and pies, salads, fresh and smoked fish, seafood and ready-made sandwiches will ensure there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy. Pressed apple juice, scrumpy, ales and other drinks are also on sale in this pantry of gourmet delights. The emphasis is on locally produced food, so you can pick up some great packs of Devon food to take home and enjoy, or give away as tasty gifts.

Have you attended the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival? What would you say visitors should definitely see and do at the event? Perhaps you know of other similar Festivals in the area. Do let us know by sharing your local information in the comments below.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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