I wish I could lay claim to this lovely bird’s eye view of the annual balloon festival above the Château D’Oex countryside, but that’s an accomplishment I’ve yet to crack.
So I’m looking forward to getting myself — at least on terra firma, if not airborne — to the 38th edition of this popular international event that launches quite literally this coming weekend on Saturday, 23 January and continues until Sunday, 31st.
Getting an early start
The festivities start off early on the 23rd with a fiesta and passenger flights getting underway at 09.45am followed by the mass ascension of the Fiesta balloons at 10.30am. The official ceremony launces at 11.30am and at 11.45am some specially shaped balloons will go off into the hopefully not-so-wild blue yonder.
The afternoon promises air shows by acrobatic planes, mini-balloons and a hot-air airship. Parachutists and paragliders will also get in on the act. There’s even a special stamp exhibition scheduled for 5pm at the Salle Communal. Sunday’s schedule is much the same as Saturday’s though shorter.
The “Night Glow” promises to be special
Monday features a competition for pilots, a fiesta and passenger flights. Wednesday from 1.30pm kicks off Children’s Day at the Festival and the little ones can enjoy tether rides, a balloon release, helicopter passenger flights and other shows and activities.
Saturday, the 30th and Sunday the 31st are jam packed with events, the highlight being the “Night Glow” sound-and-light show on Saturday night (at 6.58pm precisely!), when 20 hot air balloonists will synchronize their illuminations to musical choreography.
Paragliders with the Swiss Ski School will then present a special show, followed by a fireworks display. Some 300 people will participate in the evening’s presentation as long as the weather cooperates (in case of bad weather, the programme will be cancelled, with a decision being taken to do so at the earliest on Friday, 29 January from 12-noon.)
Lots of traffic is expected so you should plan to arrive no later than 6pm on the night. Visit the official website, check out the practical information (including the entry fee) and download the full programme from this page.
All going to plan, it sounds like an event that will conjure incredible images to stay with you a lifetime. Have fun, don’t forget to take your camera, and remember to dress warm!