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Balloon Fiesta founder

311. Don Cameron

The founder the biggest balloon event in Europe which now attracts half a million visitors and entries from around the world whilst raising tens of thousands for charity.

Don Cameron, from Portishead in Bristol, founded the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in 1978 and has been active in all areas of the fiesta ever since, now acting as Chair of the Board of Trustees and a member of the volunteer committee. In that time it has grown from a small, local event to become Europe’s largest annual balloon festival.

The weekend-long festival at Ashton Court attracts displays over 100 hot air balloons, a fireworks display, air displays and trade stands for up to 2,000 local businesses and charities. Last year Don was able to attract over half a million visitors.

Every year, Don partners with a local charity in order for them to publicise their cause. This year, he has partnered with Above and Beyond, and Don’s company, Cameron Balloons, made them a branded balloon to fly at the event as well as pride of place at the trade fair.

The yearly fiesta is run completely by volunteers and is free for everyone to attend. Last year’s partner charity, the Bristol Samaritans, were able to raise £4,500 on the back of the fiesta, helping them to run their centres and provide confidential support to those in need.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Don’s idea to put on a spectacular event for the local community in Bristol has grown into one of the iconic events of the summer calendar.  He has helped turn a simple balloon display into the biggest balloon event in Europe, entertaining half a million people with a whole weekend of free events and attracting balloon teams from around the world.  Don has also created an opportunity for the Fiesta’s charity partners to raise thousands of pounds. This Points of Light award recognises both Don’s fantastic support for local charities and the huge amount of enjoyment he has brought to people from Bristol and far beyond.”

Don said:

“I have been ballooning for years and really enjoy the sport. When I first started the fiesta, I felt there was a need for a local event in Bristol but I didn’t think it would turn into such a huge, national event. My proudest moment was last year when we sampled the crowd and found that more than half of the attendees had travelled over 50 miles to be there.

“I was so pleased when I heard I had won this award. It’s good to know that people are aware and proud of the event. This Point of Light award is not just for me, it’s also for the great many of people who make a great effort every year to make the festival a reality.”

MP for North Somerset Liam Fox said:

“Don Cameron’s vision has not only created a major event in the international calendar with the balloon fiesta but his use of this to promote and foster local charities is hugely powerful. It has been a remarkable contribution to our area.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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