An aerial view of the launch field at Ashton Court shows balloons preparing for the mass lift Sunday

Dozens of hot air balloons gathered for a colorful fiesta in England

Updated 5:37 AM ET, Tue August 16, 2016

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Story highlights

  • Huge crowds gathered for a four-day hot air balloon festival in Bristol, England
  • Hundreds of colorful balloons took to the skies over the West Country

Bristol, UK (CNN)More than 150 hot air balloons from around the world gathered for the 38th annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in southwest England this weekend.

    The event, which started Thursday at the Ashton Court country estate, attracted around a half a million spectators.
    Balloons came from as far afield as Thailand, Latvia, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands for this year's event.
    Passengers of a balloon (center), brush against the inflating envelope of another balloon as they lift off en mass on Saturday.
    This balloon, from London grocery store Fortnum & Mason, was the first to lift off during a mass ascent Saturday. A total of 71 balloons took off that evening.
    An armada of balloons drifts over Long Ashton, near the fiesta site.
    Thousands gather at Ashton Court Estate to attend the annual fiesta each August. In addition to balloon lifts, the festival includes fairground rides, performances from parachute teams and vintage aircraft flypasts.
    Mass ascents scheduled for Friday and early Saturday couldn't take place due to windy weather. But dozens managed to get off the ground on Saturday evening and again Sunday, much to the delight of the crowd.
    Four-year-old Pippa Robertshaw, wearing a balloon-print dress, buries her face while waiting for the mass lift to begin.
    An announcement is made that, although still windy, weather conditions will allow for the evening lift to go ahead as planned Saturday, showing the balloons in all their glory.
    Thomas Lee, left, and Charlie Rotherham, right, share a moment during the mass lift. Lee says that when you're flying in the balloon, "You've got no point of reference up there. Because you're moving with the wind, there's no sense of speed or distance or anything passing, you're just... floating."
    Pilots attend an early morning briefing on the final day of the fiesta. Before each launch, weather conditions are carefully assessed and crews informed about where they can and cannot land.
    A model hot air balloon is held just above the ground as the sun goes down over Ashton Court.
    The Night Glows are one of the highlights of the fiesta, with dozens of balloons blasting their burners in time to the beat of music. The soundtrack is created specially for the fiesta and this year.
    Crew members from Cameron Balloons participate in the Night Glow. The Bristol-based company is the largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in the world.
    Following the Night Glow display, balloons are quickly deflated as a spectacular fireworks show begins.
    A family watches and waits for the morning lift on Sunday as balloons inflate on the launch field.
    The pale green Fortnum & Mason balloon begins a careful ascent between other balloons during the mass lift on the final morning of the fiesta.
    World champion balloon pilot David Bareford watches the positions of other balloons nearby.  Bareford and his co-pilot, John Coleman, explained that winds at different altitudes tend to move in different directions. The skill of a balloon pilot is in understanding this, they said.
    A lone balloon is seen floating in overcast skies.
    A balloon drifts just above the treeline near a camp site at Ashton Court.
    The wicker basket of the Fortnum & Mason balloon is seen high above the town of Long Ashton, four miles west of Bristol. Despite many decades of balloon manufacturing and development, traditional cane wicker is still the preferred material for balloon baskets, due to its lightweight and durable flexibility.
    The aircraft could be seen for miles around during the mass ascents. A couple watches the Fortnum & Mason balloon pass over their back garden in Long Ashton.
    What goes up must come down: a balloon prepares to land on a recreation field in Long Ashton, where residents have gathered to watch.
    Balloon pilot David Bareford deflates the Fortnum & Mason aircraft's envelope.
    David Bareford, left, and John Coleman load the Fortnum & Mason basket into a van, before returning to Ashton Court Sunday. Over the course of his balloon piloting days in Kenya, Coleman says he flew 38,000 passengers, including Al Gore. "I always say about ballooning, we're in the happiness and memory business."
    The Despicable Me balloon, a crowd favorite shown at the center here, was the scene of a marriage proposal just before the mass lift Saturday. Chris Tozer, 31, from Bristol, proposed to  Ellen Calvert, also 31 and from the city, moments before the hot air balloon took off. She said yes.