Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque’s unusual wind patterns and typically warm weather provide for ideal flying conditions; therefore, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta attracts over 550 hot air balloons from across the world every October. With over 850,000 people attending balloon fiesta activities each year, the festival has gained international acclaim. It is so well-known that Albuquerque has earned the moniker “Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World”.
History of Balloon Fiesta
The inaugural Balloon Fiesta was held in 1972 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a local radio station. 13 balloons were gathered in a nearby mall parking lot, thanks in part to Albuquerque balloon pilot Sid Cutter. By 1978, the event had attracted pilots from neighbouring states and had grown to become the world’s largest balloon festival. The fiesta also became the world’s most photographed event.
The Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, which recounts ballooning history across the world as well as the history of the fiesta, was inaugurated in 2005 by the City of Albuquerque. The collection includes several record-breaking gondolas, including those flown by local pilots.
Things to do and see
Every year, the festival lasts nine days during the first full week of October. The morning mass ascensions are the most popular activities throughout the festival. The ascensions, which take place on weekend mornings, comprise two waves of hot air balloons that take off just after daybreak. It’s a stunning sight with over 550 balloons in the air.
Balloon Glows are evening festivities that take place on weekends. The balloons are still attached to the ground, but their burners are lighted at the same time to generate a “glow” above the launch field. The simultaneous burn is followed by fireworks show. The glow tradition originated in 1979, when a group of local pilots met on Christmas Eve night, inflated their balloons, and lit their burners to thank the community.
Special Shape Rodeos, which began in 1989, are one of the most popular events during balloon fiesta. During these occasions, balloons with unique designs, such as a cow leaping over a moon and Darth Vader, congregate to soar together. There’s also a Glowdeo in a Special Shape.
The pilots don’t simply come to the fiesta to fly for fun; they also compete. Pilots demonstrate their navigational skills in events in which they manoeuvre to drop an item on a target or land on a mark.
The America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race (which uses gas balloons rather than hot air balloons) is one of the world’s two top distance races for gas balloons. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta serves as its launch pad. Following take-off, teams fight to see who can fly the longest distance.
Tickets and Stuff
Prior to the event, tickets for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta go on sale in April. The advance price for public entry is $10 per person. The tickets are not refundable. Balloon fiesta activities are occasionally cancelled owing to inclement weather, such as rain or excessive wind gusts.
There are also a number of choices for on-field unique setups. The Gondola Club provides ticket members with a private viewing space away from the masses, as well as breakfast and courtesy transportation to the destination. Tickets start at $50 and go higher from there. Similar agreements are available through the Chaser’s Club.
Route and Parking
The celebration is held in Balloon Fiesta Park, which is located on Albuquerque’s north side. It takes a lot of effort to transport hundreds of thousands of visitors to and from the park every morning and evening. If you’re driving to the park, allow additional time—up to two hours—to get there. For specified arrival routes and parking spots, you’ll need to check the fiesta’s website ahead of time. Parking rates should be estimated at $15 per car.
The fiesta also has a park-and-ride option. Guests can park their cars in one of the city’s many lots and ride school buses to the park. Because buses have designated arrival lanes, this is typically faster than driving. Park-and-ride tickets are $15 in advance and $22 at the bus stop. Arrive early at the pick-up location.
A bike valet service is also available at Balloon Fiesta Park. You can avoid car traffic with a little pre-dawn exercise.
Continue your stay at the Balloon Fiesta
In 2018, the fiesta introduced glamping, which lets attendees to spend the night at the park. Book a three-night (minimum) stay in a safari or bell tent in a nearby field. The balloons may be seen releasing from the tents, and the field is only a short walk away. The cost of these rooms is $1,500.
Some tips to make your Balloon Fiesta more enjoyable
Layer your clothing. Mornings in October will be in the 40s, but by 10 a.m., temperatures may have soared into the 60s. Jackets, hats, and gloves will keep your toasty in the morning, but by the time you leave the park, you’ll be taking those warm layers off.
Breakfast should be eaten on the field. On the pitch, eating a breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) is a time-honoured practise.
Pay attention to the zebras. Visitors and balloons are guided by field officials to guarantee that the balloons may inflate and take off safely. They are outfitted in black and white referee costumes and carry whistles to alert spectators. They’re affectionately referred to as “zebras”. They control traffic, therefore follow their orders to guarantee everyone’s safety on the field.
Participate in a chase crew. Every balloon has a pursuit crew, which is a group of individuals that follow the balloon in a car and assist it in landing safely. Because not every pilot who attends the balloon fiesta brings a crew, the fiesta looks for volunteers to fill these positions.

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