It’s the first weekend of October, and in my hometown of Albuquerque New Mexico, that means one thing and one thing only.
One of the two largest gatherings of hot-air balloons in the world, the Balloon Fiesta has been held every year since 1972. Over 500 balloonists attend yearly. The first Balloon Fiesta, which was held in April, hosted only 13 balloons (out of an originally planned 21– which at the time would have been a world record), and was arranged as the 50th anniversary celebration for a local radio station. However in addition to being generally the most pleasant time of year to be outside here, fall in the American Southwest happens to be nearly ideal ballooning conditions (at least, most years.) In 2000 they set a world record by being the first event to play host to 1000 balloons, but for safety purposes a maximum of first 750 and then 600 was imposed in subsequent years.
Special events at the Balloon Fiesta include the Dawn Patrol, which takes off before sunrise to check weather conditions before the daily mass ascension, the Special Shape Rodeo, a day dedicated to balloons in nontraditional shapes (ranging from cows to cans of pepsi to Noah’s Ark to the head of Darth Vader), the America’s Challenge gas balloon race, various other competitions (including some that have nothing to do with balloons– chainsaw carving is traditional), and perhaps the most spectacular of all, evening balloon glows, where the balloonists gather by night, using their propane burners to fill the Fiesta park with the spectacular colors of their envelopes, followed by fireworks.
I made this thread because my partner, our own Lovely Bones, is going to be out of town for the duration of the festival, and since we can’t go together I didn’t want her to miss it completely. Here’s a time lapse video from last year, when we did go together (but not at this session, we went to an evening glow because she likes to sleep in.)
The Balloon Fiesta is easily one of the best things about living in Albuquerque. There’s nothing like being up at the chilly crack of dawn huddling a cup of hot cocoa and a breakfast burrito for warmth and seeing the sky turn into a mosaic of rainbows. The Balloon Fiesta is New Mexico’s single biggest tourist attraction, and balloons are such a key symbol of Albuquerque and the state as a whole that they’ve been featured on travel posters, souvenirs, and even on license plates during the 2000s!
While it’s too late in the morning by now to see much of the action live, below I’ve included the official stream of the Balloon Fiesta, and if you come back later in the evening, on any of the next nine mornings, or on Sunday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, you’ll get to watch the fun live and in person.