Every year in the early part of October, when the leaves on the aspens start to turn that gorgeous brilliant gold and the night air delivers a message that winter is soon to come, Albuquerque, New Mexico holds its annual International Balloon Fiesta. This is one of the most breath-taking, week long events this city celebrates.
If you’ve followed my blog, you will notice the balloon pics at the top during this month. These are pics of past fiestas. Just before Mass Ascension every morning, the balloons are all gathered together on the ground. All the vibrant colors remind me of a fresh spring garden filled with colorful poppies or pansies.
The Fiesta started in February of 1972 with just 13 balloons. At that time, they launched from the Coronado Mall in uptown ABQ. The next year, it moved to the State Fair Grounds, which were pretty muchly is located in the center of town. This caused issues with the Albuquerque airport and Kirkland AFB. Plus, the February weather was brutally cold & snowy for flying balloons and they expected a record number of balloons the next year. So, in 1975, they moved the location to an alfalfa field north of the city and held the event in October.
In 1981, gas balloons were invited and, for five more years thereafter, provided Fiesta goers with another side of ballooning. 1987 saw the first Annual Balloon Glow become a permanent addition to the Balloon Fiesta repertoire. The goose bumps generated at the first Glow still rise those who witnessed their first "all burn" describe the experience. The sight and sounds of over 300 glowing giants crowded together on the field, amidst tens of thousands of spectators, left an indelible mark on the Balloon Fiesta experience.
Special Shape balloons have become a growing segment of the world's balloon populations for a number of years. In 1989 the AIBF decided that it was time to showcase these magnificent creations in an event of their own, the Special Shape Rodeo. Spectators now have an opportunity to see a giant cactus, tyrannosaurus rex, pink elephant, polar bear, space ship and over 35 others during an afternoon event that brings out the kid in everyone. This event quickly became the largest of its kind in the world, an appropriate status for Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta.
One of the participants in the first balloon race, Don Kerston, then President of the Balloon Federation of America, had just returned from Paris where he had been sanctioned the authority to hold the First World Hot Air Balloon Championships somewhere in the United States the next year.
After his experience in Albuquerque, and some serious lobbying, Albuquerque was chosen as the sight and preparations quickly got underway. The World Balloon Championships, Inc.was formed and took on the task of hosting this first ever event. These chamionships are held in conjuction with the Fiesta every year.
The reason why this event is so very successful is because of its volunteers that work on the committees. Without these people sharing their valuable time, the Fiesta would not survive. The few times I volunteered were truly experiences I will never forget.
From a small group of 13 balloons over 30 years ago to nearly 1000 balloons and nearly 1 million attendees today, this event has “Ballooned” into something extraordinary! (luv the pun.. couldn’t wait to use!)
If you are yearning for an “October get-away” and want to see something spectacular, check out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every first part of October.