The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place in the highly populated city of Albuquerque in New Mexico, United States of America.
This is a festival of hot air balloons and takes place at the beginning of the month of October every year. Each year, in the International Balloon Fiesta more than five hundred hot air balloons are seen in the sky of Albuquerque, giving rise to a mesmerizing scenario.
This event goes on for a span of nine days and is the world’s largest festival of hot air balloons.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was started to highlight the celebration of the 50th birthday of the 770 KKOB Radio in the year of 1972. The Manager of the Radio Station, Dick McKee, had asked the owner of the Cutter Flying Service who was also the very first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, Sid Cutter, whether he could borrow his hot air balloon to mark the anniversary of the 770 KKOB Radio and use it for the celebrations.
Two of these men started discussing about hosting the event when Dick McKee asked about the largest gather of the hot air balloons. Sid Cutter informed him that it was the nineteen hot air balloons of England and he agreed to try and gather them in Albuquerque on the day of the event on being asked by McKee.
Even though he could get the commitments of twenty one pilots, some of them could not arrive from England on time due to the bad weather before the day of the event. Thirteen hot air balloons could be finally gathered on the day of the event thus marking the very first balloon fiesta which took place on 8th April, 1972, and was sponsored by the 770 KKOB Radio Station.
The very first event took place at Coronado Centre Shopping Mall’s parking lot and around twenty thousand people came over to witness so many hot air balloons gathered up together at one place for the first time in history. Balloonists from different cities like California, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, Texas and Minnesota took part in this event. The balloon races were originally initiated by the three men, Dick McKee, Sid Cutter and Oscar Kratz.
A balloon race known as the Roadrunner Coyote balloon race was a part of this event. The rule was that the Coyote which would land nearest to the Roadrunner would be the winner of the race. The winner was Don Piccard from the well known aerostation dynasty and he was flying a balloon designed by his own company. His wife had also ranked in that race that year. This race is still incorporated into the event till date as a part of the tradition. In the following year in February, the world’s first hot air balloon Championship was hosted in Albuquerque and it turned into an international festival.
- Dawn Patrol: This began in the year 1978 at the International Balloon Fiesta when two balloonists from California invented the position lighting system which allowed them to fly the balloons even at night. The pilots of the Dawn Patrol takes off before the sun rises and flies until there is enough light to see the landing sites from above. Their effort is appreciated by the other balloonists as they help them to get an idea about the direction of winds and its speed at various altitudes.
- Mass Ascensions: It is one of the biggest events in the Fiesta in which all the balloons participating in the event are launched in two waves making the sky filled up with colorful hot air balloons all at once. The launch directors, who are called zebras due to their striped uniforms, co-ordinates the launch so that all the hot air balloons go up safely. They serve as the traffic cops.
- For Artistic Vision: The view of the hundreds of balloons flying across the October sky is simply breathtaking and many artists are influenced by the bewitching beauty of this scenario. Most of these balloons land in the neighborhoods of Albuquerque and the people often spend these days in their backyard watching balloons in the sky.
- Special Shape Rodeo: Many exotic, uniquely shaped and non-traditional balloons are launched together at the same time as a part of the event. Commonly the balloon s are shaped like twin bees, milk cow, wagon coach, animals and soda cans. These unique balloons attract the visitors for their various shapes and sizes.
- The Glowing Balloons: Another breathtaking part of this event is the balloons which are illuminated by the propane burners at night-time. These balloons are not launched during the event rather they stand static throughout.