Looking Forward to Liftoff!

Fall is in the air, and by fall, we mean hot air balloons!

That’s right…the first launch—Dawn Patrol—is scheduled for this coming Saturday, October 6 at 5:45 am and the opening ceremonies commence just an hour later! (Too bad daylight savings will not have ended yet…that extra hour would be quite welcome, right?)

If this is your first balloon fiesta (you must be new around these here parts) or you haven’t been for a few years, here’s what you can expect:

Embrace Your Inner Morning Person

Hot air in the hot air balloon is only hot because the air outside is cool. When is air coolest? In the wee hours of the morning. So to enjoy the sights (and sounds, smells and tastes of course) at the Balloon Fiesta, you need to be there before the mass ascension, in time to park, in time to walk from the parking lot to the field, in time to get your hot cocoa before finding your spot on the field…and that means getting up around 4:30 am.

Of course, balloons can’t fly in inclement weather, so the trusty Steve Stucker (KOB) will let you know each day whether or not you should start the coffee or go back to bed. You don’t even have to be fully awake for the weather report…just look for the hat.

The Fiesta Has More than “Just” Balloon Launches

Even those of us who’ve been going to or hearing about the Fiesta for years forget that there’s more to this International event than just inflating and launching each morning and glowing at night.

There are races! Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta hosts the America’s Challenge—a distance race for gas balloonists. Racers launch on the first evening on the Fiesta and will travel to destinations unknown. This year’s Challenge will be particularly exciting since four of the six teams entered are former Challenge winners, and one of the rookie teams is the first ever Russian team!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta also hosts the Albuquerque Chainsaw Carving International. Eight carvers, including two New Mexico natives and a carver all the way from Zimbabwe, will compete by creating sculptures to fit this year’s theme: New Mexico 100 Years of Statehood. Carving begins on the first Saturday and continues most days of Fiesta week.

Times Are Changing

If what you loved most about Balloon Fiesta is the food, this year may be…different. Perhaps you’ve been following the local news, so you already know: a new food vendor management company (Ovations, the same company that does food service at Isotopes Park) has been hired, and they’re requiring vendors to pay 30% of their profits. For many local restaurants and vendors, this price is too high, so some of them are calling it quits on the Balloon Fiesta after years and years of participation. Others are sticking it out, but are afraid of what it will do to their annual earnings.

We don’t want to end on a sour note. Who knows…change could be good. But if after visiting the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year you wish things were the way they used to be, let ABIF, Inc. know.

To see a full schedule of Balloon Fiesta events, get info on parking, shuttles and more, visit http://www.balloonfiesta.com/.