Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta by the numbers

Cover: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


There are quite a few hot air balloon festivals held each year but, each October balloonists from around the globe make their way to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Why Albuquerque? In an area that is known for its out-of-the-box artistic creativity, balloonists want to be “in the box” and Albuquerque is ideal for it. The Rio Grande Valley and the nearby Sandia Mountains create a “box”, where cool air from the north takes balloonists in one direction, and then, when the pilots want to return to the launch site, they simply change elevation to find winds blowing in the opposite direction.

These ideal conditions make Albuquerque a favorite location for flying balloons and have brought the balloonists back year after year for the event.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When did the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta begin?

1972

1972 was the first year the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How many balloons participate in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta?

500+ balloons

In 2015, 547 pilots registered to fly in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. A Mass Ascension of hundreds of balloons from the launch site can only be described as a carefully choreographed spectacle of color and grace.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Dawn Patrol and Morning Glow?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginning far before sunrise, ballooning fans head to Fiesta Park to watch the pilots and crews prepare for launch. Each day begins with Dawn Patrol – a small group of balloons that lift off in the dark and provide an early assessment of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. Following Dawn Patrol, about a dozen balloons are inflated on the ground, providing a pre-dawn Morning Glow show for the crowd.

How do all those balloons take off during Mass Ascension?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2 consecutive waves

As the sun begins to rise, so do the balloons. As thousands of onlookers watch and photograph the launch activities, hundreds of balloons are filled with air before gently lifting off into the sky. The balloons depart in two consecutive waves from an area of 72 acres of grass (the equivalent of 54 football fields) that contains 208 launch sites, with the Mass Ascension taking up to two hours.

How many countries are represented at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2015, balloons from 17 different countries participated including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

How many people attend Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

840,000+ attendees

It is estimated over 848,000 people attended the 2014 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

In addition to watching the magical show of the hot air balloons taking flight each morning, attendees can stroll through a concourse of 43 merchandise concessions, grab a bite to eat at one of the 45 food vendors and pick up a few of the 60,000 balloon fiesta pins sold each year. In the evening, attendees can return to the park for glow shows, fireworks, and musical performances.

The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, which is operated by the City of Albuquerque, is located adjacent to Fiesta Park and showcases a vast collection of balloons, art work, and aerial artifacts.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Book travel early. Hotels in and around the area sell out fast, so booking travel as far in advance as possible is a good idea.

Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Pre-dawn hours can be chilly, with the temperature quickly warming as the sun rises. Enclosed, comfortable shoes are your best footwear choice for the walk from the parking area and for walking and standing in the fields that serve as the launch site.

Leave early – really early. Traffic to Fiesta Park begins to get heavy as early as 4:30am. Park and ride locations are also available. Pricing, parking locations, schedules and other travel information are available on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website.

Weather can be a factor. Hot air balloons can only fly in certain weather conditions. If the wind speed is faster than 11.5 mph (10 knots) or if it is raining, the event will be delayed or canceled. If an individual flying session is canceled, no refunds are given however, rain checks are issued that can be used for another flying session during the same year’s Balloon Fiesta.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Great Reno Balloon Race

Great Reno Balloon Race

Great Reno Balloon Race
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


What began in 1982 with 20 hot air balloons has grown into the world’s largest free hot air balloon event drawing more than 125,000 people each year – the Great Reno Balloon Race. Over the event’s three days, attendees gather before dawn at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park just north of downtown Reno, some in their pajamas, to watch up to 100 balloons take to the skies of northern Nevada.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First up is the glow show, where select balloons show their glow for the crowd. As the balloons light up like light bulbs in the dark, oohs, ahhs and wows can be heard throughout the crowd as the magical show of colors delights.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After the morning glow, five or six hot air balloons qualified to fly in the dark rise into the early dawn sky for Dawn Patrol. The balloons dance across the darkened sky to choreographed music as their colors illuminate the early morning hour.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun inches up and the sky starts to lighten, the crowd begins to wander onto the field amidst the balloons as the pilots and crews prepare for flight. The roar of the fire burners fills the air as the balloons are filled and they begin to take shape with splendor as they inflate, forming a sea of vibrant colors.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Balloons of all shapes and sizes come to life – a stagecoach, Darth Vader, Elvis, Yoda, and dozens more – preparing to depart into the sky as the sun continues to rise and begins to warm the morning, creating a cerulean blue backdrop to the rainbow of hues.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There is nothing quite like the Mass Ascension. The sheer beauty of nearly 100 hot air balloons leaving the ground at once with such grace and whimsy leaves one awestruck.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking flight

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lifting off with our pilot, Ron Sanchez, in the Wells Fargo hot air balloon, we headed east toward the University of Nevada Reno and downtown Reno. While pilots can control the altitude of the balloon, air currents determine the direction and speed of the flight.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we gently glided away, the crews and spectators back on the ground were like ants aside the giants as they formed a parade of colors that soon surrounded us in the sky.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The crew follows below keeping in touch with the pilot by radio. When it’s time to land, the pilot finds an open field or parking lot to bring the balloon back to the ground, as we did near Mackay Stadium at the University of Nevada Reno.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The balloon is loaded by the waiting crew into the van and the group returns to the launch site for a toast and first-time flyer ceremony. Thank you to Ron and the Wells Fargo balloon team for a great flight and a wonderful day!

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additional activities

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to enjoying the balloon events each day, attendees can stroll Balloon Boulevard where crafts, souvenirs, food and drinks are available. After Mass Ascension, the RE/MAX balloon provides tethered rides for children for a $5.00 donation to the “Children’s Miracle Network.”

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to know before you go

Dress in layers & wear comfortable shoes. It’s cold at 5 am but gets warm as soon as the sun is up. Layering will give you the flexibility to adjust as the day progresses. Additionally, enclosed, comfortable shoes are your best footwear choice. The balloons launch from a field that will be dirty and/or muddy and requires a short hike to access.

Leave Fido at home. Dogs would not enjoy the crowds or sounds, so the event asks that they remain at home.

Bring a blanket or chairs is you want to sit. There is a designated blanket area or you can sit along the very edge of the launch field.

Arrive early. There’s limited parking at the event site. Park for free at the University of Nevada Reno’s north lots, but cars must be removed by 10 a.m. Parking also will be available at the corner of N. Sierra St. and McCarran Blvd. for a donation to the event.

Find more event and information on parking at the event, consult the Great Reno Balloon Race website.

 


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.