The Internationally Renowned Balloon Fiesta
The festival is a yearly one, and it is officially called the “Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.” This festival focuses on hot air balloons, taking place in the capital city of the state of New Mexico in the United States. So far, the festivals occur primarily in the calendar period of early October. It’s the largest individual hot air balloon festival on the planet, a nine-day spectacle that features more than 500 balloons every year.
The event traces its history back to 1972 when it was a dramatic highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for a radio station. The manager of the radio station asked New Mexico’s first-ever hot air balloon owner, Sid Cutter, to bring his balloon to the festivities. The conversation leads to the station manager asking what had previously been the largest gathering of hot air balloons ever, which was 19 in England. They tried to equal or pass that number but only got 13 from seven states coming in. A balloon race was held that continues in modern festivals.
A Bit of History
In 1974, the city got to host the first ever world championships for hot air balloons and got to do so again the following year. That’s when the festivities were moved to October to take better advantage of the weather, where the celebration has remained ever since.
The event saw growth annually over the decades and hit a peak of over a thousand balloons in 2000. That lead to a limit being put in place of 750 the following year, although it was dropped to 600 in 2009. City growth and loss of landing area, plus a daily-potential of 100,000 spectators watching procedures for inflation and take off. There’s no telling how many more gathered around the city landing sites to see balloons landing.
Reasons To Attend
One of the big reasons the Fiesta is so successful is how cool morning temperatures are in October in and around Albuquerque. Another is the phenomenon known as the ‘Albuquerque box’ which is a set of wind patterns that are so predictable that they balloonists can exploit them for navigation. At lower elevations, the winds are often coming from the north, but they are then from the south at higher elevations. Balloonists often use the two different winds to navigate inside a vertical box, where they slightly ascend from the launch site, moving south for further ascent, and then moving north for the descent. They can repeat this box to stay airborne in a set pattern or just land back either directly in the launch park or very close nearby.
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