ORGANISERS of Longleat’s Sky Safari are celebrating staging one of the UK’s largest annual balloon events.

A total of 119 hot air balloons took part in a mass ascent on Saturday and organisers are claiming the Longleat event is now the UK’s largest balloon festival.

Crews from as far afield as Alaska and Dubai attended the three-day festival at the Wiltshire estate, which was organised by Exclusive Ballooning.

In all 650 pilots, crews and staff were involved with 127 balloon teams on the site.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening a total of 67 crews took part in night glow events with the balloons firing up their burners to musical accompaniment.

“We are excited, thrilled and incredibly proud to confirm that a massive 119 balloons took to the skies during the mass ascent event on Saturday morning,” said Exclusive Ballooning’s chief pilot and event director Andrew Holly.

Longleat’s very own lion shaped hot air balloon, Simbaloo, took part alongside penguins; Puddles and Splash who showcased their ‘baby’ Tall Steve for the first time at the event.

The Sky Safari also featured the Exclusive Cup hot air balloon competition with prizes worth in excess of £40,000 ranging from tablet computers, drones, iPads, a holiday and a brand new Hyundai car.

The winner of Grand Prize Draw and the car was British pilot Robin Waite and the Exclusive Cup overall champion was Bill Baker who had come over from Texas, USA and won a Lindstrand Vortech hot air balloon burner worth over £6,000.

Despite adverse weather conditions curtailing some of the planned ascents over the weekend, organisers are delighted with the overall success of the Sky Safari and are already making plans for 2018.

“We would like to thank everyone who took part in the event and worked so hard to make it such a great triumph,” said Mr Holly.

“In particular we’d like to offer our gratitude to the thousands of visitors who attended and made it such a unique and memorable event,” he added.