Photo: vredefeesten.be
Belgium is famous for its chocolate, waffles, beer, varied architecture, multilingualism and multiculturalism, and numerous festivals that attract thousands of people from all over the country and abroad. For example, Vredefeesten (“Peace Festival”) is an annual hot air balloon festival held in the Flemish city of Sint-Niklaas over the first weekend of September.

Vredefeesten was created to commemorate the liberation of Sint-Niklaas from the Nazi occupation in September 1944. It was initiated by former mayor Romain de Vidts and local businessman André Sax. Thanks to their effort, the inaugural festival was held in 1948. What started as a small-scale celebration has become one of the world’s largest hot air balloon festivals.

The festival kicks off on Friday evening with a balloon launch followed by a night glow. A night glow is a truly spectacular event featuring tethered balloons with ignited burners, glowing like huge Chinese lanterns against the night sky. On Saturday and on Sunday, balloon launches are held twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, weather permitting. The festival draws balloon pilots from all over the world and features special shape balloons.

On Sunday, a solemn service is held at a local church to honor the memory of the fallen soldiers and victims of the war. It is followed by wreath-laying ceremonies at war memorials. Other events held on Sunday include a balloon run in downtown Sint-Niklaas and a spectacular fireworks display that takes place in the evening in front of the city hall.

Villa Pace (festival village) is an important part of Vredefeesten. It offers non-stop entertainment for festival-goers of all ages. Villa Pace features live music performances on six stages, parties, and a street fair (braderie) with various merchandise, food stalls, fairground rides, and other attractions.


Photo: Joris Van Dael




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