Some Milestones in Albuquerque Ballooning History
By Steven Robert Allen
1882—In previous years, carnivals occasionally came through Albuquerque featuring hot air balloons. In 1882, however, a local saloon owner named Park A. VanTassel used coal gas to fill a 30,000-cubic-foot balloon. Over the two days it took to fill the balloon, enthusiastic coal gas customers volunteered to go without gas service. On July 4, VanTassel floated above the city, marking the first hot air balloon ascension by a local in Albuquerque history.
1907—New Mexico was still a territory, so we had Territorial Fairs instead of State Fairs. The 27th annual fair was scheduled for Oct. 7-12. Fair organizers signed on to a plan by balloonist Joseph A. Blondin to pilot a hydrogen-filled balloon. Sadly, the hydrogen generator Blondin used wasn't powerful enough to fill the balloon. On the last day of the fair, a company of cavalrymen dragged the one-third-filled balloon to the South Valley where they filled it up with coal gas at the city gas plant. Blondin finally managed to make his ascent and drifted 18 miles up the Rio Grande Valley. During his flight, he was shot at eight times but wasn't injured.
1960—Ballooning technology had improved to incorporate nylon bags and propane burners, allowing more control over flight. That year, South Dakotan Ed Yost ascended in a 40-foot propane-fired balloon for a flight that lasted one hour and 35 minutes.
1971—Sid Cutter constructed a hot air balloon to celebrate the 44th anniversary of his company, Cutter Flying Service. During much of that year, Cutter's balloon could often be seen floating over Albuquerque. In November, he founded the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (AAAA) with the aim of promoting "the sport of ballooning." The modern era of ballooning in Albuquerque was born.
1972—An eye-popping ascension of 128 balloons was held on Feb. 17 at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds during the first World Hot Air Balloon Championships. This event was the direct descendant of the current Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
2005—Opening of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
Source: Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association's website (hotairballooning.org)
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