The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 with just 13 balloons. Today it has ballooned into the largest hot air balloon event in the world with about 700 balloons! The annual event is usually held in October. Cooling morning temperatures and predictable wind directions in a box like shape (known as Albuquerque box effect) make it ideal for flying hot-air balloons.
The fiesta is a 9-day event. We were in Albuquerue during a weekend to view the ‘Mass Ascension’ early in the morning when hundreds of balloons lift off into the sky. The early morning events start with a morning glow when some balloons light up and stand in a stationary position. At dawn, a few of the balloons called Dawn Patrol, lift off to test the winds and see if the conditions are safe for flying. Fortunately for us, the event wasnt cancelled the day we were there.
There were all kids of balloons at the event – ones in the traditional inverted tear-drop shape and ones in bizarre special shapes. Balloonists came from all over the world too. Balloonist Karimulla Syed from India was flying the special shape named ‘Angry Bird’. We were pleasantly surprised to see the Indian flag hanging from his basket. Another balloonist from India Karthik Bhakthavachalam flying ‘Incredible India’was on the roster, but we didnt spot him.
We bought tickets to the event online. We stayed at a hotel about 10 min away from the Fiesta Park. However, on the morning of the event, we took an hour and a half to reach the venue. We decided to drive and the traffic was inching along close to the park. There are ‘park-and-ride’ bus options from certain designated spots in the city. The buses are allowed special routes and get there with less difficulty. We parked in the park’s parking lot for about $10. There are cheaper parking options very close to the park, but they involve more walking. They are museums and souvenir shops in the park, in case one gets tired of all the balloons in the sky!