For the next nine days, locals and visitors alike will come together as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta fills the skies with hundreds of balloons from all over the world.
As we begin Autumn, the incredible weather and air patterns make Albuquerque home to some of the best ballooning in the world. The mixture of prevailing winds with the lower altitude of the Rio Grande Valley and the higher altitude of the Sandia Mountains creates what is known as the “Albuquerque Box,” in which gentle winds blow in a box pattern. Since balloonists can only control how the balloon flies vertically, they take advantage of these winds to navigate which direction the balloon flies. Flying inside of the Albuquerque Box prevents balloonists from straying afar. They can even almost lift off and land at the exact same spot.
Despite being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Balloon Fiesta is sure to please hundreds of thousands of spectators. With thousands of visitors expected, local leaders and elected officials have worked tirelessly to maintain the level of excellence expected from the balloon fiesta despite the pandemic. This year, the Balloon Museum Board of Trustees has put together a free exhibition to welcome visitors arriving at the Albuquerque Sunport showcasing the history of ballooning in the city.
The exhibit highlights major ballooning moments such the city’s first launch took place on July 4, 1882. Which took place 30 years before New Mexico even became a state! The balloon, which was adequately named The City of Albuquerque, reached an altitude of 14,207 feet above sea level before descending near Old Town. The launch was part of an Independence Day celebration. The city constantly turned to saloon keeper and balloon owner Parker Albert Van Tassel to provide entertainment with his balloon at fairs and festivals. But the initial flight almost didn’t happen as the balloon was only two-thirds full because some folks enjoyed a bit too much late night partying the evening before the scheduled launch and used some of the illuminating gas! Van Tassel was still determined to go ahead with flight. Also, the balloon was too heavy to take off. To lighten the load, a reporter, Van Tassel’s lunch and a full bag of ballast were removed that quickly sent the balloon soaring into the air. The rest is history. Since then, ballooning in the area grew until the formal founding of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 1972. The following year, the First World Hot Air Balloon Championship was held with 132 balloons from 14 countries. Establishing Albuquerque as the Ballooning Capital of the World. A title it continues to uphold proudly.
Recently, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta set a new Guinness World Record for the “Greatest mass hot air balloon ascent.” The record was broken on Oct. 6, 2019 with a total of 524 balloons ascending during a regular morning. This year 550 balloons from 14 countries are expected to take off throughout the 9-day event. Regarding COIVD-19, the Balloon Discovery Center and Music Fiesta events have been cancelled. Wearing a mask will also be required in indoor and crowded outdoor areas. Despite the safety measures, there is still something for everyone to enjoy. Whether it be the Balloon Glow, the hot chocolate or the unique balloon shapes, this year’s balloon fiesta is sure to maintain its title and worthiness in being the “world’s most photographed event!”
For more information or to buy tickets, visit balloonfiesta.com.