Dorset Balloon Festival organisers say lessons learnt

The much-anticipated festival kicked off at the Dorchester Showground on Saturday.

The fine weather meant thousands decided to make the journey to the site on the first day.

But there were ‘horrendous’ queues of traffic on the A35 approaching the festival site. Some complained of being stuck for more than two hours and a few people turned around and went home.

Unlike the County Show, there was no one-way traffic system in place with only one way in and out of the site. This, along with a lack of marshals, and a reported crash on the A35 contributed to the problems.

Dorset Echo: Traffic getting into Dorset Hot Air Balloon Festival Traffic getting into Dorset Hot Air Balloon Festival (Image: Supplied)

It’s also emerged fog in the morning also meant there was no morning balloon flights so people attending in the daytime would not have seen any.

Organisers maintained they have always stressed the event is weather permitting.

Despite the complaints, huge numbers of people attended the event on Saturday with many telling the Echo they had an enjoyable time with all the entertainment on offer and loved watching the balloons lift in the evening.

The event continues today but with showers expected it’s not expected to draw such big crowds.

Due to the weather, there won’t be a firework display, a night time glow event or the parachuting. It will also finish at 9pm rather than 11pm.

Despite this, organisers are still optimistic about today’s events and reassured people who couldn’t attend yesterday can come today instead with the same ticket.

Addressing traffic issues, a spokesperson for the event said: “We didn’t anticipate so many people coming on the day. I think the weather brought a lot of people out.

“With the ticket sales, people buy tickets but not everyone turns up but because we were gifted with the weather, we had a lot turn up and it meant the capacity was full but there was still plenty of room for everybody.

“However, in future, we have learnt some lessons for future festivals in that we need more traffic marshals and more toilets as well for the event.”

Dorset Echo: Dorset Hot Air Balloon FestivalDorset Hot Air Balloon Festival (Image: Graham Hunt Photography)

The spokesperson continued to say an accident which had reportedly occurred on the A35 also worsened the traffic problems.

“We had a few issues with the road I think the accident on the A35 in the morning didn’t help and with it being bank holiday weekend. However, the police attended and were happy with the management plan in place.

“The fire service also arrived at 7pm, we spoke with them and they were really satisfied.”

There was also confusion amongst many festivalgoers about the lack of balloons until later in the evening as well as there being no monster trucks as advertised.

Dorset Echo: Annie Ondrusek (right) attended with her friend and their two daughters, who did not wish to be named Annie Ondrusek (right) attended with her friend and their two daughters, who did not wish to be named (Image: Katie Heyes)

Annie Ondrusek, 53, from Poole, said: “It’s a bit disappointing as it was advertised as a balloon festival and they’re not doing it until 7pm at night so that’s kind of misleading.

“There’s not as much to do as I thought either. It’s just not what I expected. I still haven’t seen any monster trucks as well.”

Another festivalgoer said: “It is a kid-friendly event which is good but there are no balloons yet.

“I won’t say false advertisement because they said there would be balloons later but in the day there could have been more.

“There’s been good entertainment like the BMX shows and music but as a balloon festival goes I expect more.”

In response to these complaints, the spokesperson stated they’ve always stressed the events were weather permitting, clarifying there was meant to be morning balloon flights but it was postponed.

She said: “Every media post we have said it is weather permitting. The thick fog in Dorchester meant we couldn’t have any morning balloon flights. There was a briefing at 5.45am and it meant it had to be postponed.

“But we’ve put on every single Facebook post and website, it is weather permitting. We haven’t mentioned day time tethering.

Dorset Echo: Balloons take to the skies at the Dorset Hot Air Balloon festivalBalloons take to the skies at the Dorset Hot Air Balloon festival (Image: Graham Hunt Photography)

“But regarding people’s expectations yes, I understand it’s common sense that you’d expect more balloons at a balloon festival but the fact that 10 to 15 went off in the evening you can’t get better than that. We’re really happy with how it went.

“It did say there would be a monster truck show. In our media it was partially a mistake as I know it made it look like there would be several but there was a monster truck there and it crashed over a car so we’re happy with that.”

Dorset Echo: Monster Truck at Dorset Hot Air Balloon FestivalMonster Truck at Dorset Hot Air Balloon Festival (Image: Graham Hunt Photography)

The spokesperson added: “We are hoping today will run smoother in terms of traffic. Hopefully there won’t be any accidents and it won’t be as busy as yesterday as there’s not as much entertainment with ticket sales being almost half of what they were yesterday.

“If they didn’t manage to make it yesterday, people are more than welcome to come along today with same ticket they’ve got.”