One of Europe's largest balloon festivals was set for lift-off Thursday, with nearly half a million enthusiasts gathering to watch hundreds of balloons take to the skies -- weather permitting.
The annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta takes place at the Ashton Court Estate until Sunday and is expected to attract between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors over the course of the four days.
Traditional highlights include the dawn and dusk mass balloon ascents, where over one hundred balloons of different shapes, sizes and colours will glide through the skies.
Organisers have been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for the next few days.
"Everything on site is beginning to take shape, and even the weather is looking like it's on our side," said event director Susan Tanner.
"We have had a real battle with the elements so far this year, but the skies have finally cleared and the forecast is good for the next few days so we are hopeful that we will get to fly the balloons.
Commenting on concerns about the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country, organisers said they would be offering to spray balloons with disinfectant to reduce any risk of spreading the disease.
During a devastating foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 the festival nearly faced a flying ban to reduce the risk. The ban was lifted at the last minute but many balloons had already pulled out of the event.
Balloon Fiesta spokesman Nick Williams said: "We will do everything we can to allay any fears. We will be spraying the vehicles and balloons of the competitors if we are asked to do so.
"We've briefed the pilots taking part and told them to use their common sense and try not to land on any farms containing livestock."
Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Ağustos 2007, 13:19