It is 4am. From every room a different melody sounds at the same time. The annoying cacophony dies down as the alarms get silenced one by one. Exciting chatter sounds through the house as everyone scampers to get ready. The smell of fresh coffee is wafting slowly upstairs.
An hour later we take the short ride to Bristol. We pass many early birds as we drive through the muddy fields towards the car park. Once parked, we hurried up to the arena and we’re just in time to see the green smoke giving the all clear.
Up, up and away! The first balloon has launched! Excitement fills the fresh morning air as the big pieces of cloth unravels slowly into giant air-filled pockets of colour. Gradually the sky gets painted with different balloons, all looking like oddly shaped polka dots against the white cotton background.
We lounge about for the rest of the day; reading a magazine, taking a nap and, of course, queuing for the loo.
As the sun sets over the horizon, people fill every square millimetre around the arena. They happily chat away as they light their portable BBQ’s and drink overpriced beer from the food court. A wing walker entertains the crowd with their incredible acrobatic manoeuvres. The Stearman plane loops around the now dusky sky. It climbs and falls and climbs again. It leaves a white-tailed streak upon its exit and, like one person, the whole arena breathes a sigh of relief.
Darkness stretches its fingers around the arena. Music starts softly in the background. One by one the balloons lights up the night sky. To the beat of the music each balloon lights in turn; its flame giving a spectacular show against the darkness of night. The Night Glow holds us in its scintillating trance as it gets more and more intense with the increasing beat of the music.
Then it is all over. People applause modestly as the bubbles float back down and gets folded away. Until next year: when we do it all again.