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Balloons fill sky for annual fiesta
Hot-air balloons have risen into the sky to launch this year's Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
The flight, which took place in sight of Brunel's Clifton suspension bridge, was the curtain-raiser to the main four-day event between August 9 and 12.
The colourful fleet of balloons ascended from Grenville Park in Bristol for an hour-long flight to mark the 34th year of the fiesta. The balloons, which drifted over the city at around 7am, were spotted by early risers and commuters on their way to work, with many running out of their houses to take pictures.
Chris Hathaway, chairman of the 2012 organising committee, said: "We are just days away from the start of the fiesta and the excitement is really building.
"This year will see the first-ever Friday night IlluminAir, some great night glows, huge mass ascents and a new aerobatics display on the Sunday, so it is shaping up to be an unforgettable weekend."
Bristol, the home of modern hot-air ballooning, is renowned for the fiesta which attracts half a million visitors every year. Sponsored by Jones Lang LaSalle, the fiesta has become one of the UK's top tourism events.
This year will see more than 140 balloons from around the world taking off from Ashton Court over the four days.
Mr Hathaway said: "Ballooning is synonymous with Bristol: you think about Brunel, the bridge, the SS Great Britain and balloons. On all the literature that goes around about Bristol you have a silhouette or a picture of a balloon on it, so they go hand in hand."
Organisers of the fiesta later announced that the national beacon, which was the centrepiece of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert, will feature in the Night Glow events on Thursday and Saturday.
The diamond-shaped beacon was lit by the Queen during the final moments of the concert at Buckingham Palace in June. The beacon's appearance at the fiesta's Night Glows will be its first public display since the Jubilee, and will be a homecoming for the beacon's burner, which was produced in Bristol by Cameron Balloons.