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Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 10:02 UK
Fiesta boss quits after 16 years


Susan Tanner was in charge of the event for 16 years

The event director of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Susan Tanner, has stood down after 16 years in charge.

Susan, a balloon pilot herself, has never flown from the annual event which is held at Ashton Court near Bristol.

She told BBC Bristol that the event has grown during its history and helped promote the city.

"I think it has changed over the years, I think we are more internationally known. It's put Bristol on the map around the world.

2000 was an amazing year... when we achieved the Guinness World Record for the most number of balloons flown out of the site
Susan Tanner

"In my time we were getting the event out on CNN - my sister-in-law, who had never met me before, saw me for the first time on CNN."

Susan says there was some amazing high-points to her time in charge including a very sunny and warm 2003.

"We had fantastic weather, it was very hot and I think we had the hottest day of the year on site that year.

"2000 was also an amazing year. It was when we achieved the Guinness World Record for the most number of balloons flown out of the site.

"If my memory serves me it was 156 balloons in something like just under an hour so we hit the world record there as well."

But with the highs, there were also lows - and a muddy year tested the event to its limits.

"Weather was not my favourite subject - 2001 with foot-and-mouth was not a good year for ballooning in general anyway and it was a very wet, soggy year.

Visits from the Red Arrows in 2008 and 2009
World record for mass balloon ascent in 2000
Sunshine and warm weather dominates event in 2003
Foot-and-mouth disease restricts flights in 2001
Bad weather compounds problems in same year

"We had never had a wet weather plan before and we were the Glastonbury of the year, if you like.

"It certainly made my put together a lot more weather contingency plans to help keep Ashton Court and restore it back to its beauty after we'd been there."

In more recent years, the Balloon Fiesta has suffered from the economic downturn like many other businesses in Bristol.

A lack of title sponsor threatened the finances of the event but a plan for a raffle saved the fiesta.

Businesses were asked to stump up £2,000 for a chance to sponsor different parts of the event.

"I think this year we had the 100 club which was very successful and I think that will prove successful again for next year.

"It's a brilliant idea to encourage small businesses and large businesses to invest in an event which is not only dear to the heart of people in Bristol but is also internationally recognised.

"In this economic climate we had to look for new ways to make the fiesta attractive to sponsors... and that is a great thing."

Susan says she will now spend more time at her home in the Mendips with her pigs and donkeys.


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