Beginning with a baker’s dozen balloons in 1972, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta has grown to attract over 700 balloons and upwards of 100,000 spectators per day in early October each year. Originally scheduled in the spring, it was soon learned that the weather that time of year would limit ballooning activities. In 1975, the fiesta moved to October when the fall weather is more consistent and conducive to ballooning. The balloons are launched in waves, no balloon goes until a balloon marshall gives the OK. On the Saturday we attended, about 550 balloons launched in the mass ascension between around 7 and 9 AM. News reports indicated that all parking lots were full and closed. The nearby Interstate I-25 was jam-packed and an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 were in attendance. In the opening photo, waves of balloons are beginning their launch.
There are many special shaped balloons including the large cow and the Wells Fargo stage coach balloons in the above shot. Many balloons are sponsored in a similar fashion to the two featured above. Special slape balloons are often, but not always much larger than a typical balloon. The gallery includes many photos that feature special shapes.
In the evenings, just after dusk, the fiesta features a “glowdeo”, where balloons are tethered and inflated, but do not fly. In the shot above, the Canon balloon inflates a bit early. As it turned out, the winds came up just as the sun was setting and after only a handful of balloons started inflating, the glowdeo was cancelled. The winds were too strong to support safe operation. Evening events this year included a laser light show and fireworks display.
One of my avocations is as mission pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. I was unaware that in addition to small aircraft and gliders, the Civil Air Patrol’s fleet includes a hot air balloon, donated by an Albuquerque Civil Air Patrol member. I happened to see the Civil Air Patrol balloon as it awaited clearance to launch. According to information provided at the fiesta, there were about 725 balloons registered for participation in the various events over the 9-day period.
Once they leave the ground, the balloons find air currents that help them maintain flight near the fiesta launch field. Winds travel in different directions at different altitudes so the pilot has some control over direction of flight. The gallery of images included features some of my favorite balloons. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.