Individuals who dream of touching the clouds and flying through the sky could have their dream come true by visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico in autumn. Even if you love more to keep your feet on the ground, there are amazing spectacles to witness. More than 500 hot air balloons participate in the biggest balloon festival in the world called the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The festival lasts for nine days in October. This year, 2019, the Fiesta would be held from October 5 to 13.
A Short History of the Festival
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta traced its roots back on April 8, 1972. The festival was initiated by the 770 KOB Radio station for their 50th anniversary. The first fiesta consisted of 13 balloons and was hosted by KOB in the parking area of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall. There were 20,000 spectators at the time and participant balloonists from various states like Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas, and California. The events in the first fiesta included the Roadrunner-Coyote Balloon race which continues to this day. In the year 1975, to host the World Hot-Air Balloon Championships in Albuquerque, the International Balloon Fiesta was moved to October. At present, the peak number of participants allowed is 600 from the previous 750 in 2001. However, in 2000, a record-breaking 1,019 participants registered. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is awaited and attended by 100,000 spectators yearly.
Special Events to Attend
If you are planning to attend the international balloon festival in Albuquerque, there are some major events that should not be missed. The first among theses if the Dawn Patrol Show, a fiesta tradition where at least one hot air balloon is launched before sunrise to check on the visibility of landing and the weather conditions. Another early morning event is the Morning Glow. Several hot air balloons, while still tied to the ground, use their propane burners to light up the sky in various synchronizations.
Balloon Launch is another must-see morning event wherein a course of 1 hour, a small mass ascension of balloon takes place. During the weekday mornings, there are fewer crowds, so viewing the balloons might be a more enjoyable experience. The undisputed highlight of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the Mass Ascension. As the name suggests, it is when hundreds of colorful hot air balloons launch to the sky together. The colorful balloons float around the blue sky for up to 2 hours for spectators and guests to enjoy.
If you are coming with friends and family, you should definitely attend the whimsical Special Shape Baloon Events. The fantasy of seeing objects floating in the sky materialize with balloons in the shape of beer mugs, cartoon characters, movie characters, carousels, animals, hearts, and so much more. Festivities continue into the night time with the Evening Balloon Glows. Before the sun sets completely, pilots set up and inflate their hot air balloons while still tethered on the grounds. Once night descends, the pilots light up their propane burners periodically and do synchronizations. This is usually followed by laser light shows and fireworks displays.
There are several flying competitions held during the festival as well. One of the popular ones is America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race. The objective is for pilots of specially designed balloons to last the longest and go the furthest distance without coming down. Some pilots stay for four days in the air and are equipped with food, fuel, clothing, and other necessary gear.