Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Even though we have a few more weeks in Black Mountain, NC, we had planned several months ago to make a trip to Albuquerque for part of the 9-day International Balloon Fiesta.  Why would we do that?  Why not!  And we had some air miles that needed to be used before they expired.  A few years ago while traveling through New Mexico, we missed out on the Fiesta by a week, and have been wanting to go back for it since then.  Not foreseeing a road trip to New Mexico in the near future, it seemed that if we wanted this to happen, this would be the opportunity.

Departing NC after 8 days of rain, we were initially disappointed to arrive in NM to find it raining
and 59 degrees.  Not that we were troubled by the rain, per se, but we knew bad weather would affect the ability of the balloons to go up.  Within 2 hours of our arrival, the rain had stopped and the temperature shot up 25 degrees.  Rain and low lying clouds did affect some of the events over the next few days, but for the most part activities were able to go off, more or less, as planned.

Started in 1972 as a celebratory promotion for a local radio station, the event featured 13 balloons.  Now there are around 600 balloons taking part, and there would be more if promoters hadn't limited the numbers as the event grew to unmanageable numbers, 1019 participants in 2000.  Action starts daily with the Dawn Patrol.  Watching this event means departing your accommodations long before sunrise.  Balloons light up on the ground and then take off before sunrise at 6 A.M. 

At 6:30 A.M., several balloon light up on the field  for the Morning Glow. The lighting in the early morning darkness, made the 4:30 wake up time worthwhile.  Staying only about 2 miles from the Balloon Fiesta Park, enabled us to "sleep in", but
with as many as 100,000 drawn to some events, traffic and parking is a challenge even with the outstanding orchestration of the Albuquerque Police and hundreds of volunteers.  With the 365-acre Park, you can sometimes plan on a bit of a hike to get to the gates, and long lines for tickets, if you failed to purchase them ahead of time.

The most popular event, the Mass Ascension, follows many mornings at 7 A.M.  Our first morning, we planted ourselves in the middle of the 78-acre launch field.  Running around like a couple of kids, with big grins on our faces, we thoroughly enjoyed being in the middle of the action.  For close to 2 hours, balloons of all colors, shapes and designs were inflating and taking off into the sky.  Events are separated into Morning and Evening, with parking and gate fees charged for both, though the first afternoon we walked around the park, there was no charge for either.  During the evening, the program consists of an Evening Balloon Glow, Laser Light Show, and Firework Show.

One-third mile of vendors provide food and souvenirs for purchase next to the field, and a variety of other activities take place in conjunction with the balloon activities, and then through the day, like the Chainsaw Carving Invitational, and a juried Arts and Crafts Show.  Entertainment by the New Mexico State University Band and the Navy Band Southwest were offered on the mornings we came for the balloon launches.  All in all a wonderful event, and certainly glad we were able to make this trip!
 Click on pictures to enlarge.

At 4 P.M., scarcely a soul around
At 6 P.M., thousands filled the field

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