10:54 AM 28th August 2021
Up, Up And Away It’s An Exciting Spectacle York Balloon Fiesta 2021Group News Editor Andrew Palmer took to the skies for a balloon ride as part of this year's York Balloon Fiesta 2021
York Balloon Fiesta 2021
It’s exciting and uplifting! York Balloon Fiesta 2021 is on at York Racecourse.
Although, looking forward to the family entertainment, the balloons ascending with grace and beauty, plus the evening glow event, I did set off with some trepidation.
I was not relishing my visit to York Racecourse. I was going up in one. Gulp!
Bradley preparing for take off
As I got nearer to York, I did think: is it a case of will it, or won’t it? My weather app had not predicted rain and the sky had darkened with large spots of precipitation falling on my windscreen.
Deep down as my stomach began to churn, I crossed my fingers in hope.
Arriving, the man responsible for getting all the infrastructure in place, John Lowry, welcomed me with the words: “We’re still not sure yet whether the flight is going ahead but we are very hopeful as it seems to be brightening up.”
Balloonists from all over the country were descending on York for this marvellous spectacle.
John told me he had been setting up since Monday organising the power, safety briefings setting up the stage for the tribute bands.
And, as I was waiting for the safety briefing the Spice Girls tribute band started with Goodbye, Oxygen
and Take me home
, hmmm I thought what are they trying to say? Should I just make my apologies. But then they followed up with If you wanna have some fun
and Do it
Oh well I thought in for a penny in for a pound. Let’s get psyched up.
So off I went to meet Bradley Lewis my 24-year old pilot, who had come up from Oxfordshire.
He’s only 24 I thought to myself and it’s just me and him in a small wicker basket.
I need not have even worried for Bradley was experienced, full of fun facts and knowledge with the ability to keep me calm.
I knew instantly I was in safe hands.
Bradley explained the safety procedures and how to get in and out of the basket and then along with his father and friend Rob, we started putting everything together.
Laid out on the grass the 90,000 cubic feet balloon didn’t seem to look much, until the fans started blowing in the cold air. Then as we tested the burners the majestic balloon took shape as the crowds looked on marvelling at this astounding invention.
You don’t have long once it is ready to go, so in I jumped, well rather awkwardly, and that was it no turning back now.
Nearly ready for take off
Up we went to cheers from the crowds down below who watched in awe as the wind took us off in a south easterly direction.
I was clinging on to the sides; Bradley sensing my fear reassured me with his confidence and the wise words: “You will feel this for 10 minutes then it will disappear.”
Yeah, I thought!
But he was right, it didn’t take long before I relaxed and took in the vista on a beautiful evening watching all the other balloonists taking off against the backdrop of the Racecourse and York Minster.
It was fun to see families in the back gardens waving to us, and as we crossed the mighty River Ouse a couple of times, flying over the Naburn Lock area, the landscape took on a new meaning.
The only noise came from the occasional blasts of the burners at times when we had to ascend a little higher.
The most noticeable thing was the tranquillity and peacefulness. Bradley’s expertise was useful, and he explained about the different shapes of the balloons.
Before too long we had to descend. I thought to myself there I was worried about going up now I am disappointed it is all over.
Bradley was looking for an appropriate field; I had picked up from other balloonists that there is a tension between balloonists and farmers.
I asked Bradley about it and he summed up brilliantly.
“You have to think of it this way. Agriculture and farmers' fields are equivalent to a factory making widgets or whatever. With farmers we are going to come through the roof of their factory. We need to understand that and look for a field where there are no power cables and one that has been harvested.”
Spying a harvested oil seed rape field we descended, a little bumpily masterfully controlled by my 24-year old pilot and that was it - the flight over.
It didn’t take too long for the backup team to appear, and we packed up and headed back to the racecourse.
As they dropped me off the other tribute band Abba were performing The winner takes it all
And I felt that was true I thoroughly enjoyed it and was grateful to be in the capable hands of Bradley.
Some balloonists then prepared for the Hot Air Balloon Night Glow event in the main arena. The balloons are tethered lighting up to music.
An uplifting event.