In October of 2014, we finally got to do something I had wanted to do for quite a long time, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The fiesta is a yearly nine-day event festival of hot air balloons which takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico each October. The event is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world and has over 500 balloons each year. There are special-shaped balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and vibrant balloon-filled skies. It is truly a wonderful experience.
The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. The first event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall. There were 20,000 spectators with 13 balloonists from Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Texas. Happily, the Balloon Fiesta grew each year for decades, and today is the largest balloon convention in the world. On any given day during the festival, up to 100,000 spectators may be on the launch field where they are provided the rare opportunity to observe inflation and take-off procedures. Countless more people gather at landing sites all over the city to watch incoming balloons.
As we had our dogs with us, we were one of the many people watching them from afar. However, we were able to see a few actually get inflated and take off. It was so amazing. It was a little chilly first thing in the morning, but still thrilling. We wanted to make sure we were able to see the Dawn Patrol. Dawn Patrol pilots take off before sunrise and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Apparently, balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. The Dawn Patrol began at the Balloon Fiesta in 1978, when two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allowed them to fly at night. It is still one of the main events at the fiesta.
Another fun aspect of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the Mass Ascensions experience. This is one of the main events at the fiesta where all participating balloons launch in two waves, filling the sky with hundreds of balloons at once. Launch directors, also known as “zebras” because of their black-and-white-striped outfits, serve as “traffic cops,” coordinating the launch so balloons leave the field in a safe and coordinated manner.
There are also many non-traditional, uniquely shaped balloons that are launched at the same time. Some of the most famous shapes include a milk cow, a wagon coach, and twin bees. There are also many others like soda pop cans and animals. This is the most popular part of the event as families can see how balloons can be all different in shapes and sizes. It is truly interesting to watch these huge balloons in flight.
As great as all of the above events are, we really enjoyed the Balloon Glows. It is perhaps the most spectacular single moment in all of Balloon Fiesta. Especially when all the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time, followed by New Mexico’s most spectacular fireworks displays. It was absolutely phenomenal. That was definitely the best part of the whole Balloon Fiesta.
Each year the fiesta had a different theme. This year (2021) the theme is Time Flies and will be held from October 2nd-10th. I really wish we could go again but have other trips and events planned in October. Hopefully, we can make it next year. In the meantime, I will keep up to date on their website. Please check it out for more details and event info. Hope to see you there next year! If you have been to the fiesta, please feel free to share your pictures or experiences. Would love to hear about them.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Visitor Information
Balloon Fiesta Park
5000 Balloon Fiesta Pkwy NE
Here is a link to their daily schedule.
Adults (13-61) $22
Seniors (62+) 20
Children (6-12) $10
Children (Under 5) Free
Day of Event Purchase Prices
Adults (13-61) $25
Seniors (62+) 25
Children (6-12) $12
Children (Under 5) Free
General parking is $20 per car, every time you park. There are no “in and out” privileges. General parking lots are located on the east
and south ends of the Park. Each parking lot is color-coded and the gates are numbered, so please remember the color and number of
the gate through which you entered the field.
Do’s and Dont’s
• Backpacks/bags (1 per person) are allowed but will be inspected. (Clear bags will expedite the process)
• Blankets or bulky clothing should be carried over the shoulder to be screened more quickly.
• Folding chairs are allowed but will have to be removed from the carrying case for inspection.
• Food of any kind for guest consumption. Resale is prohibited.
• Weapons (including knives over 4” blade length), any item that may be used as a projectile or one that is deemed dangerous by Public Safety personnel.
• Any animal with the exception of a service animal.
• Glass bottles and hard sided coolers.
• Alcohol of any kind.
• Religious or Political paraphernalia.
METAL DETECTOR SCREENING
• Prior to entering gates, all patrons may be subject to security screening, including metal detector screening and inspection of bags or other items carried in. By tendering a ticket and entering the field you consent to
such searches and waive any related claims that you might have against AIBF. If you elect not to consent to the searches, you will be denied entry into the park.
• The level of security screening may be modified on an event-by-event basis at the discretion of AIBF Public Safety supervision.
• Remove any jackets or other large, bulky items from your bag and carry these in hand. When the contents of your bag are clearly visible, staff can screen bags without requiring any contents to be removed. If blankets
or other items conceal the contents of a bag, staff must request that they be removed in order for screening to take place, delaying the process.
• For walk-through metal detector screening, remove any keys, coins, or other metal objects from your pockets and hold these in hand above your head.
• Guests with implants or defibrillators should notify officers prior to going through the metal detector. Place your hand over your implant and the rest of your person will be wanded.
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