Like I have said on other threads, I take every opportunity to shamelessly plug the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This year is the 45th year of the Balloon Fiesta and its the flagship event in the state of NM. For most hot air balloon pilots, this is the place you have to come and fly at least once. So I thought I might start a thread and give hopefully give everyone a taste of the event. I've never done anything like this, so I can't guarantee how it will turn out especially as things get busy once the event starts. If you have attended in the past, I hope this will make you want to return; and if you have never been here, I hope this will make you want to come.
Fiesta officially starts in 10 days on October 1st, but I am going to start posting now with some pictures and events leading up to opening day and then hopefully pictures and info during the event. Hope people enjoy and if you have questions about the event, or ballooning in general, feel free to post your questions and I will try to answer in a timely manner. Also you can go to the Fiesta web page, www.balloonfiesta.com for more info than I can pass along here.
nmballoonist, looks like a huge undertaking similar to if not more difficult than setting up an air show. Cannot wait to visit the festival one day. We want more photos of the event during and after.
Setting up for an airshow is probably similar. Last year we had about 950,000 visitors over the nine days, so we become a mini-city within Albuquerque. I will try to keep posting pictures and answering questions throughout the event, but may get preoccupied and miss a bit.
You need to attend some day, pictures don't do it justice. The Marriott Pyramid and a Courtyard are about 2 miles south. I think they run shuttles to the field during the event, but would suggest checking with the property.
starryeyedwonder and after or before the festival you can go to Hatch New Mexico :: Chile Capital of the World! :: and enjoy some Hatch Peppers in burgers, chili and more at http://sparkysburgers.com/.
Visit Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway - Sandia Peak Tramway some 20 miles northeast of ABQ.
Abd or, enjoy some of the finest Rita's on the https://santafe.org/Visiting_Santa_Fe/Self_Guided_Tours/Margarita_Trail/index.html and then after you recover make the drive to Taos - New Mexico Tourism - Hotels, Restaurants & Things to Do - New Mexico Tourism - Travel & Vacation Guide.
New Mexico has quite a bit to offer all across the state so you should be able to find plenty to take in.
The website is very good. If you go to the guest info tab there is something called guest guide, which gives a good overview.
Towards the end of the guide there are a couple of pages on local and state attractions.
Also, there is a Balloon Fiesta app that is sponsored by AIBF and the Albuquerque Journal, the local paper. You should be able to download from either the Apple or Google app store by looking up Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. You can look up pilot locations, concession locations, etc. If you are on the field, the NM Visitor and Tourism Department is set up and has lots of visitor info.
As IAHFLYR mentioned, Santa Fe is a good location to visit and is only an hour away. Lots of museums, food, and native american arts on the Plaza. If you go to about one hour to the west, Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. A little further away is White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, Taos Pueblo, ancient pueblo dwellings at Bandelier, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon.
Thanks for sharing, nmballoonist! Looking forward to following this thread and hearing more about it. I had stumbled upon a balloon festival in Colorado when I young and was in total awe of it all.
carat where in Colorado? We have flown in Durango, Alamosa, Denver, Gunnison, Telluride, and Colorado Springs. If you have ever been to Telluride, you will know that is a very challenging place to fly.
I believe the festival was in Colorado Springs and it was over 20 years ago, too. I was much younger and had never seen that many balloons in one place. Since then, I have always wanted to catch another festival. Is this your favorite one, nmballoonist? Do you have any other must attends??
Your memory is correct. For many years over the Labor Day weekend Colorado Springs hosted a hot air balloon festival in Memorial Park near Prospect Lake. It was very impressive and always drew large crowds. I left Colorado Springs 11 years ago and I am not certain the festival exists any longer.
There is still a balloon event in C Springs over the Labor Day Weekend. It used to be called the Colorado Balloon Classic but has a new organizer and called the Labor Day Liftoff. You can go to their website
for info and pictlures. It's a very nice event attended by a large number of NM pilots.
CaraT, you know that I have to say my favorite is Balloon Fiesta. I don't know if I have a favorite or must see. I have liked attending the smaller events in small towns in Colorado and New Mexico, like in Taos, Durango, Telluride, Gunnison. I have heard very good things about Saint-Jean-sue-Richelieu and Gatineau, both in Canada and Lorraine Mondial in France, but have not been.
If you want to see if there is a balloon event in your area, go to
which is the largest listing of events, dates, and locations that I know of.
My flying partner got one last flight in today before the big event. In Rio Rancho to the NW of Albuquerque. Perfect day.
Sorry it's not closer.
Made a run to our trailer to load up some provisions. It's not the JW but nice none the less. Many of the AIBF Board stay on the field. This lot, President's Compound, sits above the field on the SE corner. The earlier field pictures were taken from this area. Rental spaces in this lot will be sold out within a week after this years event is finished.
A nice National Geographic time lapse.
Looking south along the concession row, or Main Street as we call it. The large building to the south is the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, http://www.balloonmuseum.com
So you might ask why I shamelessly shill for the Balloon Fiesta?
I moved to Abq at the end of Sept 1977 right out of school, attended my first Balloon Fiesta Oct 1977, and have been to every one since then. Started crewing for out of town pilots after that and volunteering help with Fiesta setup in the early '80s. One pilot we crewed for for a few years was a balloon dealer and made the wife and I an offer we couldn't refuse on a new balloon In 1985. Got my private pilot certificate in 1986 and flew in my first Fiesta in 1986, getting my commercial certificate in 1990. Was asked to be a Safety Official in 1989 and it was downhill after that. Served as the Balloonmeister (chief field official) in '94 & '95. I have been a member of the Board of Directors since 1991 and served as President 2004-2005. I am still a member of the Board and help with whatever needs to be done.
So about 2/3 of my life has been involved with the Balloon Fiesta and I am honored to be part of something that is the signature event of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico. And I can't stop promoting the event and love talking to people about it.
A few random pictures before registration begins tomorrow.
Two shots of a bronze statue of Sid Cutter, the founder of Ballon Fiesta. Links to two tribute articles on Sid (who was my Designated Examiner when I got my private license)
Just few of the golf carts used during the event.
One of our many food vendors. Breakfast burritos are a must in the morning. Legend has it that breakfast burritos were invented by the Chavez brothers during Fiesta. Have no idea if this is true, but it's a good story.
For those of you who would like to watch the event on weekends, all the Albuquerque tv stations live stream the event.
Also Balloon Fiesta has a number of webcams live all week and you can also find archives for past events
At this point weather for Saturday is looking good. Hoping for the "Albuquerque Box". Due to the topography in Albuquerque, where we sit in a valley, the cool night and morning air flows down the valley (to the south) and the prevailing winds at higher elevations are usually from the south or southwest. So when you launch and stay low you travel south, then if you climb and catch the higher winds, you travel back north, hence the term box. With the right conditions and pilot skill, you can launch from the field and an hour later land back on the field. Some of the archived webcam footage shows this.
OK a couple of shots on the day before.
During registration. A number of pilots have to stop by the Federal Aviation Administration and get documents checked. Our local Flight Standards District Office is quite good and works closely with the event. Their motto is (jokingly) "we're not happy til your not happy". For you non-aviators one of the things they provide for the enforcement of the regulations.
The official ride concessionaire and a few others getting a flight in this morning. The real thing happens tomorrow.
Ahhh the days of FSDO, I'd almost forgot about those boys and girls down at Ellington that I used to work with on things. What a pain in the FAA they were during Wings Over Houston with their last minute waiver dissemination not to mention how they'd foul it up with the airspace issues we had each year and they were always the same issues!! The motto is still true from what I hear these days also.
Them balloons look wonderful, the colors are gorgeous.
So I don't do very well taking pictures, inflating a balloon, and watching out on event operations. I didn't fly today, our friend who also flies our balloon did fly. It was a beautiful day. I will see if I can steal a few from friends Facebook postings. The Fiesta website has not posted any yet.
Dawn Patrol taking off.
Most balloons went south down low and the out to the NW when they climbed to about 1500 ft.
Weather looking good for the Balloon Glow in about 4 hours.
Hey, nmballoonist, when you say "I don't do very well taking pictures, inflating a balloon, and watching out on event operations", my immediate reaction is: I'm your guy! You can fly (and run the show), and I'll take care of the shooting.... Anytime you need a photographer, lemme know!
All BS aside, SOMEDAY I'm gonna get to Albuquerque for the festival! If it wasn't for the whole job distraction, well...
For now, keep on posting!!!!
And this morning.
Sun just coming up, but not over the Sandia mountains to the east. Lighting clouds but not balloons. Not photoshopped.
We were in the second wave to take off so got a few pictures before we had to inflate and launch.
I flew and didn't have time to pull out my phone and take a picture during our relatively short flight, but stole an inflight shot from a friend's Facebook posting.
nmballoonist Thanks for living up to your well chosen name and sharing this event with us. The photos and details about the event are wonderful and much appreciated.
Well all good things must come to an end. Didn't fly this morning. Winds on the surface were ok (5-6 mph) but winds aloft were a bit high, expected to come down to he ground, and mainly went north towards Sandia Pueblo land. It's considered a sensitive area and while balloon landings are ok, sending a large number of balloons there did not seem neighborly.
About 60 or so balloons, including us, put up and stayed on the field until the winds were getting too high and everyone put down. However there was a bit of a show for those who came out.
i did get a nice picture of the sun coming up between the mountains and the clouds.
We have 5-6 professional photographers who cover the event. I keep hoping they post some of their excellent photos on the AIBF website so I can link them. Also looking for a time lapse of other events other than just the opening day.
You need to get here sometime. Pictures don't do it justice. Just plan on being here more than one day, since Mother Nature can put a dmaper on the festivities. We can control a lot of things, just not the weather.
Ok, found a couple of links to two of our photographers at this year's event.
And the archive of the time lapse videos from the last three days are here.
No evening events scheduled until Thursday, Oct 6th, when we have our Special Shapes featured for static display and then a glow as the sun goes down. Good thing there is nothing tonight, winds are currently blowing about 23 mph out of the west. Hoping for good weather tomorrow morning.
You get ssindc to photograph, you fly and I will give balloon vectors as they'd work similar to and maybe better than what a particular airline from another country would at times tell us when asking if they were flying the assigned heading...."sometime we do, sometime we don't"!!
You make it simple to want to visit the Festival with those great pics and story.
Day four in the books. An interesting day weather wise. Ground winds about 3-4 mph but the radar wind tracker that we have on the field
was showing the winds increasing to 15-20 mph at 2,000 ft. No steerage, all winds taking you SSE to S. Went on hold for about 45 minutes and the winds died some but still "sporty up high". Competition was canceled for the day but the field was opened for launch at about 7:30. A number of balloons took off and stayed low, and landed fairly quickly as the winds on the ground were expected to increase somewhere between 9 - 10 AM. The field was closed at 8:30 so we ended up doing another static display.
No photos today. However I would again point you to the time lapse videos at
that covers Saturday thorough this morning. If you are feeling adventurous, you can do the hot air version of Where's Waldo, otherwise know as Where's NMBalloonist. Webcams 1 and 2 show us.
Webcam 1 is in the SE corner and looks NE. We are also in the SE area of the field. The area in front is what is known as the Gondola Club where we have catered meals, hosted bar, high class portable toilets, and a great view. Also we have knowledgeable hosts that can talk about ballooning and what's going on out on the field. They can also take people out on golf carts to get in the middle of the action. $100/person for our mass ascensions, glows, and special shape events an $50 Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings.
Webcam 2 is in the middle of the south end of the field. The tent to the left is one of our sponsor tents for our major sponsors. To the right is the sponsor hospitality tent where all sponsors can come for breakfast or dinner (depending on the event), hosted bar, coffee, and other snacks. For IAHFLYR, the open structure with the anemometer on it, is our "control tower". During events the Balloonmeister,, Chief Safety Official, and our Chief Launch Officer are typically there, as well as others depending on the day. No radars or high tech. The Balloonmeister has a channel on our radios where he can transmit directly to the pilots if needed. Typically information is transmitted to the pilots and crews by the launch directors on the field before flight. We also have about a dozen weather stations we monitor and then update a looped message on a channel that the pilots can monitor.
For all of you saying I am making you want to come to see the event in person, that's my goal. The Board of Directors works all year promoting the event, among other things. Plus if I can get enough Insiders to come down and stay at a nearby Marriott maybe I can campaign for a "finders fee" for each reservation.
My apologies for disappearing on this thread for a while. Lack of time, lack of sleep, bad internet connections, and other factors have gotten in the way of updating. Back at home tonight, real bed and shower for the first time in 9 days. However I need to get a bit of rest to post anything coherent. Stay tuned for some updates over the next day or two.
OK, that's it. Hope you enjoyed. You can find many more pictures and videos on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Facebook page and on the balloonfiesta.com website under webcams and photo galleries. If anyone has questions feel free to post or message me. Until next year.
Some of the words are slightly inaccurate, "balloon landings are a controlled crash" and "dip and dash", but the 92 pictures are nice.