EVEN a hurricane could not dampen the spirits at Bristol’s biggest free event and one of the world’s best known balloon fiestas.

Thousands descended on Ashton Court over four days, from Thursday (August 8) to Sunday (August 10) for the 36th annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

Despite dreadful weather forecasts, with the South West bearing the brunt of the remains of Hurricane Bertha on Sunday, the fiesta featuring hundreds of balloons and crews from across the globe managed to get off the ground every day.

Mass ascents filled the skies above the city and beyond and two nightglows, on Thursday and Saturday, attracted the biggest crowds as people from all over the country came to Bristol to watch balloons flicker with light in tune to music.

The iconic festival, estimated to boost the local economy by around £13million each year, included a hugely popular giant Smurf shaped balloon and a daisy from America.

The weekend also featured two air displays, sponsored by Grant Thornton, from the Breitling Wingwalkers and RAF Typhoon, as well as a flypast from a Battle of Britain Spitfire and Hurricane flying to the tune of Land and Hope and Glory on Saturday afternoon.

The BBC staged a War at Home exhibition featuring talks by Kate Adie and Larry Lamb and although mass ascents had to be cancelled on Saturday night and Sunday, take off on Friday broke all records with 124 balloons leaving the site.

Fiesta chairman Jane Oakland said: “At the beginning of the week we were concerned by the weather forecast but we were very lucky to have had four ascents and two nightglows this weekend.

“The two morning flights were particularly beautiful against a Bristol blue sky.

“I would like to thank all the public who turned out to support our balloonists at this great event and particularly members of the 100 Club for their generous support.”