Angry customers demand refunds after much-maligned Wales Balloon Festival

Large crowds gather at the Wales Balloon Festival in west Wales last weekend
-Credit: (Image: Richard Swingler Photography)

People are demanding refunds after being left disappointed by a much-criticised festival which took place in Carmarthen over the weekend. The Wales Balloon Festival was held at Nantyci Showground on the outskirts of the town on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The inaugural event attracted huge numbers of people from all over the country and caused gridlock on roads in and around Carmarthen and especially on the A40 dual carriageway which leads away from the town heading west towards the festival site. Some spent hours in their cars stuck in traffic while some even turned around and went home due to the scale of the delays. You can keep up to date with the latest Carmarthenshire news by signing up to the local newsletter here.

Many of those who did get inside have expressed frustration and disappointment with what was on offer at the festival with complaints made about parking, a perceived lack of balloons on show, and an event that one person claimed was “nothing like advertised”. You can read much more about what people made of the balloon festival and the traffic chaos it caused here.

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Organisers always maintained – since the event was first announced last year – that some events, most notably balloon flights, would be weather-dependent. Of the three nights balloon flights were cancelled on Friday and Sunday night although balloons did take to the sky at around 8pm on Saturday. A ‘night glow show’ – where balloons are stationary on the ground and lit up – went ahead on Friday but was cancelled on Saturday.

Some paying attendees complained about other issues at the festival including pricing and what they deemed to be a lack of organisation. There are also claims that a number of previously advertised events and activities did not go ahead. A Facebook group has been set up, which already has more than 130 members, called ‘Wales Balloon Flop’ and is populated with messages from people who attended the festival and now want a refund on the money they spent on tickets. One person said the event was “boring” and “expensive,” adding: “Finally, at 8pm (on Saturday) they started the balloons. In six hours it was the first time we had seen a hot air balloon in a hot air balloon festival.”

A musician on stage
While some criticised the lack of balloons on show, there was other entertainment at the festival across the weekend including live music.... -Credit:Richard Swingler Photography
A BMX rider performing a stunt
.....and a BMX show -Credit:Richard Swingler Photography

The disgruntled person said some of the activities on show were a success but added that “overall I’m disappointed in the event – most of all I’m angry at the response from the event organisers”, claiming that the company behind Wales Balloon Festival was refusing to offer refunds. That company – Extreme Events Ltd – has been pushed by WalesOnline to clarify their position on potential refunds but at the time of publication it has not responded. It has, however, responded to individual queries on social media by saying: “Sorry to hear your frustration. Unfortunately we are not issuing refunds. Everything was there that was advertised, we cannot help the amount of people that turned up. We are taking on board everything that everyone has to say to help with future events.”

One of those future events has already been announced, as the company plans to return to Carmarthen in 2025. In an announcement on its Facebook page on Monday Wales Balloon Festival said a new event was already in the pipeline, this time called ‘Wales Balloons and Tunes Festival’, which is set to take place on June 27, 28 and 29 next year, again at Nantyci Showground just outside Carmarthen. Want fewer ads? Download WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android.

Heavy traffic congestion on the road leading to the festival on Saturday afternoon
Heavy traffic congestion on the road leading to the festival on Saturday afternoon -Credit:Richard Swingler Photography

Some people who attended the 2024 eventhave been positive about their experiences. Caryl Mayes said: “Once in we had a great day. It was lovely seeing all the balloons take off and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the monster truck show. All in all I thought it was a good day. We also took a large picnic in without any issues. A festival is always what you make of it. Great day spent with family and friends.” Samantha James said she had a “fab afternoon” while Helen Bantock described the festival as “awesome”.

The fallout from the Carmarthen festival is not the first time that Extreme Events Ltd has faced mixed reviews over one of its events. In May the Devonshire Balloon and Music Festival, held in Exeter, was branded a “shambles” and a “glorified funfair” by some families. On that occasion a Facebook page was again set up by angry people who paid for tickets and were left unimpressed by what the festival had to offer.

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