Berkshire Balloon Fiesta at Newbury Showground described as a let down by disgruntled visitors
Thousands of people headed to the Berkshire Balloon Fiesta and Action Extravaganza at Newbury Showground at the weekend for what was billed as an exciting family day out.
An early morning ascent saw a variety of balloons taking to the West Berkshire skies, but by the afternoon the wind had increased too much for them to safely go up again.
And this decision – as well as charges for rides inside the event – has led to it being criticised as an overpriced let down by some disappointed visitors. Organisers of the show said it was a day of “hot air balloons, death defying demonstrations, adrenaline fuelled stunts and a full action extravaganza”.
There were fairground rides, face painting, roaming bands, stilt walkers and bubble entertainers, falconry displays and parkour have a go workshops, as well as displays from Paul Hannam ATV Stunts, Stannage International Stunt Team and Equestrian Stunt Team in the main arena.
However, since the weekend a number of visitors have taken to social media and contacted the Newbury Weekly News to say that they left feeling “disappointed” and “gutted” after having to pay extra for the rides once they got into the event.
Dan Maskell, who went along with his daughter, brother and sister-in-law, said his biggest gripe was that there was no mention of the balloons being unable to fly when he bought his tickets as he arrived at the venue on Saturday afternoon.
“I wasn’t given the opportunity to say ‘OK, there’s no balloons, so I don’t want to go in’,” he told the NWN. “We didn’t see any indication that there were no balloons and that’s not unreasonable to expect. It is the star of the show.”
Ruchit Bansal, who paid £155 entry fee for his group of six adults and four children, said he felt he had to pretend to his children that the rides were broken because they couldn’t justify the cost.
“I was very much disappointed right from the outset to see it’s more of a fun fair with highly overpriced food and rides but not a balloon fiesta as advertised,” he said. “This event was a total rip off.”
Another Thatcham resident, who asked not to be named, said she felt like it was a “stitch up”.
“We paid £75 as a family to get in to what was essentially a very expensive fairground,” she added. “It was really, really poor value for money. I am quite wise with my spending and I feel gutted that I spent over £100 that day.”
Ash Potter, operations manager at organiser Xplosive Events, said it had been made clear in all of the marketing and terms and conditions that the balloon activities were subject to wind conditions and sadly it had not been safe for them to fly later on Saturday.
“It is disappointing to hear that you have received complaints about our event on Saturday,” he added.
“The Berkshire Balloon Fiesta offered numerous attractions some of which were included in the very reasonable ticket price and some of which were extra.
“There were also attractions that required a fee, for example the fairground rides as you would expect with all events.
“We are only a small team and any complaints hit us hard.
“We feel that we provided an amazing family orientated day out for our customers on Saturday with a huge and varied programme offering something for everyone.”