A view from the top: Balloon Fiesta and the mass ascension

Balloon Fiesta
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Here are the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta basics:

  • It starts bright and early Saturday, October 6, 2018, with a mass ascension after sun-up.
  • Balloon Fiesta runs nine days.
  • It’s still quite a bargain; $10 dollars to get in and free for kids twelve and under.
  • Parking is $15. You’ll want to get here early to avoid the backup and load up on the hot chocolate and breakfast burritos.

From humble beginnings 46 years ago, Albuquerque’s signature event has taken off.

For nine days, every October, hundreds of thousands of people flock to New Mexico’s biggest city to participate in something they can’t see anywhere else, the world’s largest annual balloon rally.

Balloon Fiesta Park is sprawling, the launch field covers 78 acres – that’s the size of 54 football fields. And it has to be sprawling when at any given time you can find hundreds of balloons inflating and taking off in rapid fire.

The best part, visitors get to see it all happen just feet away. It’s an unforgettable treat watching the sun come up over the picturesque Sandia Mountains, which tower over this historic three hundred-year-old city to participate in an event with so much color and up-close excitement 

It’s a bucket list destination where Darth Vader mingles with cows and New Mexico native Smokey Bear keeps watch from the sky.

The Balloon Fiesta mass ascensions are definitely the stars of the show but getting wave after wave of balloons off the ground in an organized, orchestrated fashion amid a sea of people takes a lot of work.

Down to the minute, the timing in the morning has to perfect, the winds must be just right and there are a lot of checks and balances in place, to ensure that for nine days in a row there are successful launches each morning.

From a deck high above balloon fiesta park, there’s an entire launch directing crew who coordinate with the launch directors – known as Zebras – on the ground who give pilots the green light to lift off on a sparling field divided into grids.

In two waves the launch crew and Zebra’s send-up almost 600 balloons.

Organizers say none of this would be possible without the volunteers that make sure the hundreds of thousands of people who wake up before the sun rises to get to balloon fiesta park each year, get the view they deserve.

Take it from Scott Appelman CEO of Rainbow Ryders whom always have the most balloons on the field each year, “When the box winds allow the pilots to fly from north to south, to east to west, that’s what’s so unique about Albuquerque Fiesta – so wonderful.”

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an unforgettable experience.

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