The organisers of the hugely successful Midlands Air Festival will take over running the annual hot air balloon event at Longleat House near Warminster this September, it has been revealed – and will be adding an air display and firework show.
Slipstream Management will take charge of Sky Safari 2024, due to be held on Thursady 12th-Sunday 15th September, taking over from the previous organisers, Exclusive Ballooning.
The event will begin on Thursday with an afternoon balloon launch, pyrotechnic air display by Airborne Pyrotechnics and a hot air balloon nightglow, open exclusively to members of the public who hold an annual pass for the Longleat Estate. The next three days will be open to all, with each day featuring two balloon launches, a two-hour daily air display, a twilight show by Airborne Pyrotechnics, a hot air balloon nightglow and a musical firework finale. There will also be hot air balloon tethering throughout the day, with opportunities for balloonists to interact with the public
The event appears to be in a similar format to the Midlands Air Festival, held at Ragley Hall, albeit with a shorter flying display. The Midlands Air Festival launched in 2018 and has now become one of the most anticipated events on the UK calendar; 2023’s show featured 200 hot air balloons and a 6-hour daily flying display, enjoyed by a crowd of 30,000.
The air display will be smaller than at the Midlands Air Festival and will not feature any jets, organisers said, to suit Longleat’s intimate surroundings and avoid distressing animals at the nearby Longleat Safari Park. Ticketing information has not been released, however, the organisers are taking bookings for hot air balloon crews who wish to participate in the show.
Longleat has hosted aviation events in the past, often with aircraft taking off from the estate’s long, tree-lined driveway. The estate was a venue for the Red Bull Air Race World Series in 2005 and 2006, and hosted an evening air display as part of its annual Festival of Light in 2016. The Sky Safari balloon gathering was launched in 2015, but has not previously featured an air display.
The previous organisers of Sky Safari, Exclusive Ballooning, said in a statement that they only found out that they would not be organising the event when Slipstream Events posted on social media that they would be running an air and balloon festival at Longleat on the same dates. They later confirmed the news with Longleat, but say they were not given a reason for the decision. Exclusive Ballooning said that they had already begun planning for Sky Safari 2024 and taken applications from balloon crews. They also said that they are investigating a new home for their “Exclusive Cup” event, which was previously co-held along with Sky Safari at Longleat.
Completed in 1580, Longleat House is currently home to Ceawlin Thynn, 8th Marquess of Bath. Its 9,800 acre estate includes a safari park, holiday camp, the world’s longest hedge maze and a 250 acre woodland designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.