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Global Balloon Festival Begins
News Bytes 10/7/2019 24 Comments


The 48th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta got off to a slow start on Saturday in New Mexico. While inflated balloons strained at their tethers, deflated pilots studied weather reports, hoping for a break in the low clouds and mist that kept all but a few intrepid balloonists grounded. 

Joe August, a 59-year-old balloon pilot, said this was his 40th time attending. He lamented the bad weather and said it was unusual. “So we were limited and had to keep the balloons on the ground today because the fog was pretty dense,” he said.

But frustrated balloonists and fiesta visitors were rewarded for their patience. God provided beautiful weather on Sunday. Veteran balloonists and young pilots thrilled viewers with a spectacular mass ascent of hundreds of balloons of myriad colors and shapes.

Elijah Sanchez is one of those young pilots. He has witnessed this choreographed balloon ballet for years. The Albuquerque local grew up in what many consider the ballooning capital of the world. Once a young, wide-eyed spectator, then a teenage crew member, Sanchez is now a licensed balloon pilot.

At age 20, he was among the youngest to launch when the fiesta kicked off this weekend with its first mass ascension.

More than 580 pilots and their teams were registered for the event, representing 41 U.S. states and 17 countries. Organizers expect several hundred thousand visitors over the course of the nine-day event.

“Being up in the air is just the most amazing feeling,” Sanchez says. “It’s a different experience every single time. It’s just amazing seeing the beautiful scenery all around as the Sun is coming up.”

The wind patterns over Albuquerque create what pilots refer to as a box. The wind direction changes with altitude, meaning pilots can head toward the open desert beyond the Rio Grande and then circle back toward the Sandia Mountains and the launch field, literally riding on air currents. Passengers onboard get an unparalleled view. But it just may be as spectacular from the ground, where throngs of spectators surround and are surrounded by the vibrant balloons as they lift off in waves.

From the balloons swaying directly overhead to those floating 1,000 feet in the air, the spray of colors is glorious.

During the event, a team of referees directs traffic on the launch field. They blow sharp whistles to let pilots know when it’s time to go or to warn spectators to clear a path.

This year’s festival hosts more than 100 differently shaped balloons, including a family of giant bumble bees, Darth Vader, outlaw Billy the Kid, and a massive spotted cow. 

Albuquerque has hosted the fiesta since its humble inception in 1972. It has grown from a gathering of only 13 balloons to a major production that infuses tens of millions of dollars into the New Mexico economy.

(Elijah Sanchez starts a fan, inflating a hot air balloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico. AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

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Most recent comments

That is so cool! I'd like to

That is so cool! I'd like to go in a hot air balloon someday, as long as I am not the one steering it! Or piloting it, or whatever. Anyway, it sounds fun.

#Second comment!

This is cool, BUT, I kinda think that it MAY be a waste of money, think, around $3000 per ballon, 100's of them? Ii bet they lose more mone then gain, but it would be fun to watch.

@Lena P

I would also like to ride in a hot air balloon someday. I have been to a balloon race where they also have a balloon glow where the balloons are on the ground at night and they turn on their something or other and the balloons light up. It is really cool.


that's a very expensive race!
PS i An Nadia . I have the A back now.

5th comment

This is so cool. I didn't think there were different shaped balloons

To Above

I have seen one shaped like a cartoon character.
I wonder why they would have Billy the kid as an air balloon? I mean he was a murderer.


Riding in a hot air balloon would be very different. I wonder how fast they go? Have any of you ever been on an airplane?

To Above

I have. 6 times!


Wow really! I've never been on one but I think it would be cool!

To above

Yes its very fun! The view from the widow seat is amazing!! I have had some funny experience s of airplanes! :-)

@Nadia A

Congratulations! I am still working on fixing mine.

@Beth H

I have never flown in aa plane.

@ beth

You man my name? I just went to that account settings button and clicked etit and entered my name,

@Nadia A

I don't see any account settings button, but I just emailed them again.

To above

you have to log out and it will be buy the search button. I kept having problems so I just called them and they helped me very well.

@Nadia A

Have you ever been on a helicopter? I wonder if that would be more fun.


Have you ever been on a boat, The only kinda boat I've been on is a canoe! ;)

@ beth h

No I haven't. Have you.

@Beth H

No I haven't. I am actually Beth G

@Nadia A

No I haven't actually but I want to.

@Beth G

Oh sorry!!

@Beth H

It's OK

its amazing

a hot air balloon sounds like it would be so much fun, all the different colors in the sky sound like a beautiful view! its amazing

To above

Yes! :-) :-)

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