The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual hot air balloon festival that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The festival is a nine-day event during early October and has over five hundred hot air balloons and is considered as the largest balloon festival in the world.

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The balloons are launched from the Balloon Fiesta Park which is located on the northern edge of the city. The park is a multi-use field and hosts many other events throughout the year, when not in use for the festival. In 2005 a museum dedicated to the history, science, sport, and art of ballooning was opened.


The festival began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration of 770 KOB Radio. The first fiesta was a gathering of 13 balloons, sponsored by KOB. This event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Centre Shopping Mall.

The next year Albuquerque hosted the first world hot air balloon championship and the event then went on to become an international festival. The balloon festival grew each year for decades with the limit for the number of participating balloons increasing each year.


Dawn Patrol

This event started in 1978 when the two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allowed them to fly at dawn. This event is important for the other balloonists as it helps them understand the drift and speed of the winds. The Dawn Patrols pilots take off before sunrise and fly till there is enough light to see the landing sites.

Mass Ascensions

All the participating balloons launch in two waves filling the sky with hundreds of balloons at once. The launch directors serve as ‘traffic cops’ or ‘zebras’ (because of their black and white striped outfits) and help co-ordinate this launch.

Artistic Vision

The balloons serve as a canvas for many local artists and is a favorite subject matter for their paintings. These balloons often land in Albuquerque neighborhoods with many residents watching them from the comfort of their backyards.

Special Shape Rodeo

Apart from the conventional shape of hot air balloons many unconventional shaped balloons can often be seen participating in the festival. Some of the famous shapes include milk cow, a wagon coach, twin bees, and many others.

Balloon Glows

Many balloons that take part in the festival has illuminated at night by propane burners. These balloons, however, do not take off and are static. The ‘Glowdeo’ is a night glow for the special unconventionally shaped balloons.

Apart from the main events, several other events like

  • 1 The Fiesta Challenge – balloonist attempt to drop a marker closest to a target
  • 2.  America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race
  • 3. A Music fiesta
  • 4. Rainbow Ryders – official balloon rides that people can book and enjoy
  •  5. The Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension – balloonists from each nation launch their balloons one at a time to their national anthem.

Local Impact

The convention has gone on to become more than just a hot air balloon festival and has become a hotspot to showcase New Mexican culture and history.  The festival is a major tourist attraction and constitutes a major source of income for the city and local businesses.

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