Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta—44th Annual show, Oct 2015
Many people say going to this Fiesta would be on “their bucket list,” we made it happen. Booking at least six months in advance, we were able to snag cheap Southwest tickets out of Orlando. There is no question that Southwest Airlines is one of the best airlines in the United States with Jet Blue, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines right up there too. “Bags fly free,” and the seats were comfortable too.
We transferred out of Love’s Field in Dallas. They have remolded the entire place and it is quite beautiful and easy to get through. I remember Love’s Field as being the last airport that JFK flew to before the assassination.
The Albuquerque airport is small but nicely designed with Lincoln Fox’s statue of Dream of Flight in the middle of the airport.
We rented a car with Budget through Costco. It saved us $50 dollars compared going to Alamo. The salesman tried to convince us that our “compact” lacked power going up 7000 feet to Santa Fe. We said “NO, thanks,” and our Ford Focus did just fine. They wanted to give us a SUV for $15 dollars a day more! Ironically, I never did take a picture of our red Ford Focus, but I found these four other vehicles that made the journey to Santa Fee too!
After visiting Santa Fe for four days (another blog), we came back to Albuquerque and stayed at the Embassy Suites right off of I-25. It was not the most convenient hotel, but it was comfortable with their famous “made-to-order” breakfasts.
We arrived a day before the official start of the 44th Annual Balloon Fiesta (not Festival). Luckily we met a couple that told us they were driving to the Fiesta early in the morning and they had just gone to the area to “scout” it out. Also, the famous “Anderson Abruzzi Balloon Museum” was open. Their idea became ours.
The Balloon Fiesta is several miles north of Albuquerque on I-25. It is actually very easy to get to. Many people took busses the next day. We decided driving was the best option for us and we would get up real early the next morning.
We did visit the Balloon Museum and it was fascinating. The idea of a Fiesta started with a “birthday party” and the idea evolved into a Fiesta. The first fiesta was in 1972 with 13 balloons. There are now 600 balloons that participate.
Two of the main people Anderson and Abruzzi thought it would be a good idea to start a museum. We found out the museum is “free” the day before the start of the Fiesta!
We learned from a display that the French were the leading nation in the development of the balloon. The French King refused humans to go up until it was tested with “animals” first.
The development and history of ballooning is well displayed and documented at this museum. We went “upstairs” to the open conference room to view the entire “midway” of where this famous event occurs every year. The field is definitely massive.
We did get up at 2:30 AM and out the door by 4:00AM. Parking was no problem. In fact, there was no one there to even charge us the $10 dollar fee. We found out that the majority of the Fiesta is “manned” by volunteers. It was nice that young men had their flashlights to guide us into the park.
Not knowing much about this Fiesta, except there are legendary large crowds, we were one of the first into the midway! We sat at a table with a young Albuquerque couple who come every year.
The weather at first seemed “warm,” but by 5:00AM it cooled down to the high 50’s– just right for balloons. What is interesting about this event is that you can go right up to any balloon and watch them set up and eventually take off. We were fascinated.
By 6:00 AM the “green flag—i.e. Ok to fly” was up and several balloons took off. The entire process is well organized as “waves” of balloons are allowed to set up at various times throughout the morning. They don’t all just go up at once.
Eventually there are hundreds of balloons being filled and flying away with people in the basket. You can arrange to be one of those people in the basket, but that is something that we are not willing to do.
By 8:00 AM there were at least 40,000 people on the midway. It was very difficult to negotiate through the crowds by that time.
To see all those balloons in the sky is a sight we will never forget.
We were amazed at the variety of types and shapes of the balloons. Many of these balloons had corporate sponsors.
It was interesting to find out that the balloons fly into “a box” pattern and eventually come down in open field’ just a few miles away from the Fiesta.
The event goes on over two weekends with fireworks, laser displays and “Balloon Glows” to name a few of the many activities.
This 44th Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was well worth seeing. It is an activity well worth to keep in your “Bucket list” of things to do.