Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque
The first 2 weekends in October, includes the week in between - some years we have over a thousand balloons up in the air at once ..... a beautiful site to see (and photograph!) By getting there early, and signing up in the crew tent/hut - you can help an out of town balloonist set up, fly, and take down their balloon. You can usually get a free flight out of it too! But to do that, you should agree to help them for a few days :) There are beautiful native american ruins, pueblos, nearby hotsprings, and Santa Fe is only an hour away. This is definitely a must see/ must do time to visit.....
The Balloon Fiesta began each day at 5:45 am with the Dawn Patrol. The pilots participating in this event take off in the dark using position lightning systems. They maintain their height until first light, which allows them to safely descend.
We arrived at 6:15 am on Saturday morning...early enough to enjoy a delicious cinnamon roll and hot chocolate before the Mass Ascension at 7 am. The balloons ascend at this early hour because the wind shifts around 9am each day, making it a difficult flight.
I believe there were about 750-800 balloonists this year. The procedure is to launch them in three separate waves. Less than half of the balloons participating in the fiesta ascended on Saturday morning because the wind was predicted to pick up.
Hot air balloons are filled by using a propane-fired burner (picture #2). The tanks lie at the bottom or sides of the basket and the pilot can control the flow with levers.
I learned that balloons can't be steered left or right, but can only go up or down. The wind decides which direction one goes, so its important to know exactly which way you'll be headed--you don't want to drift into the Sandia mountains or into the Rio Grande river.
To rise, the pilot adds more hot air, to descend one releases the hot air...slowly. When in flight, the balloon below has the right of way.
During the festival visitors could sign up for hot air balloon rides. The cost was $150.00 per a half hour and $300 for an hour. We didn't schedule a flight, but many people did!
Although the GLOWDEO, featuring the 'special shaped balloons', had been cancelled the night before, we had the opportunity to glimpse a Balloon Glow as we dragged into Fiesta Park early Saturday morning.
The gentle glow of the balloons pierced the darkness dramatically. It was magnificent! As people straggled into the field, you could hear the surprised "ahs!" as they were startled by the beauty of this scene.
I was very happy that we didn't miss seeing and experiencing this highlight of the fiesta!
As we were walking to the North end of the field to view the morning ascension, we came across these policemen on handsome mounts. They made a very appealing picture!
We wanted to plant ourselves at that point on the grounds, because the balloons were going to drift to the North/Northwest--and what a spectacle!
Although many balloons were launched seconds after each other, the majority drifted North, but a few headed West. As we watched the television Sunday morning, it was reported that someone's balloon landed on the roof of a house.
Residents welcome the balloonists by displaying a white sheet--this signals they can land in that particular yard.
Aside from the main attraction, there were other amusements at the park. A trickster did magic or sleight of hand tricks for the crowd.
A chainsaw carving contest was held on Saturday morning. The participants were given 90 minutes to carve something ingenious out of wood. I'm not sure about the prize offered, but this bigger than life inflatable chainsaw directed contestants to the proving ground (picture #2)!
A designated ride area appealed to the children at the fiesta. A giant inflatable 'TITANIC' set apart their special place (picture #3). As we strolled by, a girl was being spun in some sort of hoop...I got dizzy just watching her turn head over heel.
There were two large tents at either end of the concession strip that sold all types of souvenirs from the Balloon Fiesta. We found commemorative pins, posters, gorgeous calendars, a beautifully illustrated guidebook and many other balloon-inspired items.
Food booths seemed to multiply from one visit to another and there was no excuse for anyone's stomach rumbling because there was an abundance of edibles! Funnel cakes, breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches, turkey legs and much more. Getting up early was less a chore because we could grab a quick breakfast here.
The Kissing Bees, Lilly and Joey, are considered 'special shape balloons' and were certainly a big favorite with the crowd and of mine.
These sweet bees rise to the air kissing, then slowly separate until they are holding hands. How long they lock hands depends on the weather. At a certain point, the velcro separates and each begins its own flight (see picture #2).
This type of balloon that is not shaped like the traditional round balloon can participate in the GLOWDEO. The balloons are tethered to the ground and lit up at night, producing a lovely glow in the dark.
Categorized as a 'special shaped balloon',Cent'r Stage was truly a masterpiece. This huge creation captured the attention of kids and adults both. Who didn't imagine sitting atop this stage coach for the ultimate ride?
The organizing that goes into this event seems like it would be staggering! Although we inched our way to the grounds, the traffic flowed fairly well. There was a vast amount of parking and school buses were used as shuttles.
Those staffing the booths were given special visor cards so that they were able to access parking lots closer to the activities. We were fortunate to be traveling with a couple who was helping with the event, so were able to use nearby parking. Otherwise, we would have had a good walk to the grounds.
Cent'r Stage is a Wells Fargo balloon--sponsor of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta this year.
I had written to Kymbanm (Albuquerque) that we were planning to attend the balloon fiesta this year. After contacting her, my computer crashed and I was offline for 4 weeks. ERRRGH! During this time, Kym left this comment on my homepage, "So, do you think we're finally going to meet?"
Several weeks later I found the message and answered, but it seemed we would be there on different days. However, once we flew to New Mexico, our group decided to spend Friday evening at the balloon fest, as well.
I was so excited to meet my second VTer! Kym had given me directions to the First Aid building where she was part of the crew and we had no problem finding the location. Unfortunately, our visit was brief because she was working and my husband and I had to relocate our friends in the huge crowd...but we did take pictures!
So glad to have finally met you, Kym!
This is Airabelle, the Creamland Cow balloon and another of my favorites. It was huge! We watched it being prepared for flight, which was just amazing! She's 110 feet of charisma.
Last year, this bovine-shaped balloon descended to the street below the home of friends who live near the Sandia Crest. It was a thrilling occasion for them!
Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta Park actually sits near the feet of the Sandia Mountains. As the sun sets, it casts a rosy glow on the mountains which have been named for the Spanish word meaning "watermelon". This was a curious effect and very dramatic!
If you are in Albuquerque starting the first weekend in October, you can see one of the premier events in the world. It is the largest hot air balloon fiesta in the world. During the mass ascensions there may be 800-900 balloons in the air at one time. That is why it is called "The Big One." There may be 200,000 people there on the first day. You can even walk among the balloons as they are taking off. It's cold in the early morning that time of year, so dress warm. There are plenty of vendors. Plan to eat breakfast at the Fiesta. The favorites include breakfast burritos, funnel cakes and curly fries.
On selected evenings during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, they have Glowedos. The balloons are tethered and they light up using their burners. It's a beautiful sight and the weather is usually quite comfortable.
The new Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum opened on 1 Oct 2005. The 59,000 square foot facility is located at the south end of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Park. The museum is shaped so it will seem like you are walking into a hot air balloon that is being inflated. Exhibits cover the people, history, science and art of hot-air and light gas ballooning.
Regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The museum is closed Mondays and city holidays. The hours are extended during the Balloon Fiesta. Admission is $4.00 for adults (with $1.00 discount for New Mexico residents with a valid ID); $2.00 for seniors (65+); $1.00 for children, ages 4-12; and under 3, Museum Foundation members, ICOM, AAM & NMAM members are FREE.
In order to attend the morning events, you need to get out to Balloon Fiesta Park VERY early, unless you want to be stuck in traffic. The police funnel all the traffic into two entrances: one from the north off of Tramway Road and one from the south off of Alameda Boulevard. Interstate 25 can become very congested as the morning wears on. I usually try to leave my home in the Northeast Heights around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning on the first Saturday (crowds thin out some during the weekdays). It's dark and cold, so dress warmly. At the Park, there are many concessionaires selling all sorts of hot food (I recommend the breakfast burritos) and drinks. You can also buy all manners of souvenirs, clothing, etc. The Dawn Patrol balloons lift off around 5:30 or 6:00 to check the wind conditions. By mid-morning, the skies are filled with balloons. I usually like to get something to eat when I first get to the grounds (admission: $4) and spend some time wandering around the field. When the first couple of waves of balloons have lifted off, I then start browsing in the shops. The field used to be just dirt, but they planted grass a couple of years ago and now it is covered with soft grass (I didn't go this past year, but I hear it's very nice and keeps the dust down).