In 1972, 13 hot air balloons launched from a shopping center parking lot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. From this humble beginning, The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was born. Today, it is the largest balloon festival in the WORLD. There are over 500 hot air balloons entered in various events and the tourist attendance is close to one million. It is held annually the first week in October and lasts for nine fun-filled days. Balloon enthusiasts arrive around 4:30 a.m. to witness the mass ascension of balloons from all over the world. The colorful balloons are in all different shapes and sizes. The Albuquerque sky fills with comic book characters, company logos, popular movie characters, flags of nations identifying the country the balloon is from, and more. In the evening, the balloon glow is a light spectacular of balloons followed by fireworks.
The most frustrating thing during the festival is the unpredictable weather. Cancellation or delay of one or more events is a given each year. The most critical factor for cancellation is wind conditions. The perfect wind condition is light and stable winds of 4 to 6 miles per hour. Winds over 11 mph are not safe for ballooning. The perfect weather conditions for flying hot air balloons are: dry (no precipitation), good visibility, light winds under 12 mph.
A highlight of attending the event, is to take a hot air balloon ride. Festival balloon flights cost from $395 to $469 per person depending on the day of the week you fly. Although the price of a hot air balloon ride at the festival is more costly than other times of the year in Albuquerque, attendees are willing to pay it so they can say they did it at the festival. It is suggested that passengers wear comfortable, practical shoes for the ride, wear layers, wear a hat and sunglasses. Sounds like a good pair of sneakers, sweat pants, and a hoodie over a long-sleeved top would make a perfect flight outfit. Females planning to take a hot air balloon ride need to opt for pants to ensure modesty when getting in and out of the gondola.
Like all festivals, there are souvenir trading pins and other items for purchase. Be sure to visit the various pilot’s booths and ask for their balloon trading card. It will have a photo of their balloon, the name of the balloon, the name of the pilot, and information about the current balloon fiesta. The best part, is they are FREE!
Something all festival attendees need to eat while there is a breakfast burrito. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta claims to have sold the first breakfast burritos at a festival in the 1970s. Many have adopted it as the unofficial food for the event.
This year the Festival begins October 5 and ends October 13. Come visit the “Land of Enchantment” and try a green or red chiles burrito while being mesmerized by hot air inflated gigantic balloons!
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