Event management company, REM demonstrated its ability to overcome challenging conditions with nimble decision making and on-the-ground logistical management at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, by opening the event site seven hours early.

While difficult weather conditions cancelled events up and down the country last weekend, REM pre-empted the incoming bad weather with a bold and decisive decision-making process to bring forward the opening of the iconic event by seven hours.

The four-day event took place last week (August 8-11) at the Ashton Court Estate.

For the first time in the events 41-year history, REM made the decision to open the event at 5am instead of 12pm, due to poor weather conditions.

On the first day of opening, 58 hot air balloons took to the skies of Bristol at 6:40am.

Ben Hardy, managing director of REM, commented: “We had been on site for 10 days loading in infrastructure, but as the event got closer the weather forecast wasn’t showing much sign of improvement.

“With the forecast so changeable, it was unclear whether we would gain conditions suitable for ballooning. Less than 48 hours before the event was due to open, it became clear that there would be a weather window for a mass ascent on the morning of (August 8), seven hours before the opening of the fiesta.

“One of REM’s key objectives is a place-maker goal – to help put Bristol on the international map. With the special feature of the Darth Vader balloon, we decided it was a case of Carpe Diem – seize the opportunity to make the most of this opportunity.

“We called a management meeting at 10am on Wednesday morning, when we were in the middle of loading in 363 traders and framed a contingency plan to safely open the event early.

“We then spent the next four hours dealing with key stakeholders, who were all very supportive. Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council were key as the landowners and to gain site permissions to open the site to the public ahead of time.

“Then it was a case of checking with partners around crowd safety and traffic management, including Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Highways England, security partners, Showsec, local authority traffic teams, festival medical teams and St John’s Ambulance.

“By 3pm we were in place and ready to go, a testament to all the planned and processes we have in place – and a great team of people with a lot of trust, to pull it off.”

The decision to bring the schedule forward worked well as REM had to activate bad weather contingency plans, as the site was closed for the majority of Saturday through high winds and rain, with limited activity on Sunday.