Up, Up and Away
Fiesta fun is floating your way!
So somehow—either due to fate's cruel, life-guiding wind, as a reward for performing excellent work in the civilized world or just because you happen to have an unnatural predilection for large floaty things filled with hot air and human beings—you find yourself in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico during the first week of October. We all know it's the Balloon Fiesta you are here on account of and it would be a shame to imply otherwise.
As far as large annual public events go, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of those multi-pronged dealios. That is to say that while balloons are indeed the main aspect of este fiesta, there're also a heap of other entertaining diversions available for your experiential pleasure.
• Very early mornings are the center of Balloon Fiesta culture. The celebration begins well before dawn (which in October doesn't happen until after 7am) with a daily laser light show that begins at 5:45am.
• This year's opening ceremonies are on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 6:45am; weather permitting this important ceremony will be followed by the fest's first mass ascension. The folks that oversee this part of the annual ritual, launch directors, wear black-and-white striped vests and are known as zebras in balloon lingo.
• As launches proceed into the morning, an important activity is also happening on the ground. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta sponsors a chainsaw carving invitational that happens on the launch grounds daily between 8:30 and 11:30am while pilots take to the air, soar and return to fiesta headquarters.
• There'll be plenty of fireworks at this year's AIBF and that ain't just a metaphorical statement. AfterGlow Fireworks shows, presented and sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal, happen the during the first weekend at 8pm and then resume on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the following week as the festival crests.
• Fireworks aren't the only bright bits of this year's Balloon Fiesta. Traditionally, a field of anchored balloons, flashing their propane burners after dark—a phenomenon known as a “glowdeo” in the parlance—is seen as a thing of transcendent beauty. Visitors to the AIBF can witness all these lovely lights on the first weekend, beginning at 6pm. There are also morning glows scheduled on Wednesday morning (Oct. 11).
• On the same subject, not all balloons are spherical. Some custom-made units come disguised as just about any shape you can imagine. A totally unique take on the traditional glowdeo happens the following Thursday and Friday (Oct. 12 and 13) when the Special Shape Glowdeo takes over Balloon Fiesta Park and the surrounding environs at 6pm.
• On the first Sunday of the balloon bash, Oct. 8, the Fiesta of Wheels Car Show, sponsored by the Rainbow Roadrunners Car Club, will fill the festival grounds with hundreds of classic, vintage and special interest automobiles.
• During the week, balloonists take part in competition flying events. These flying contests feature balloons and their lofty pilots navigating the Rio Grande, grabbing a key from a lofty pole flying over the Sandia Mountains or drinking to excess and craftily avoiding electrical transmission towers.
• Hot air isn't the only gas you'll get to know at this year's AIBF. The America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race (where high atmosphere balloons use inert gases like helium for their loft) begins at the festival. The competition launches on the first afternoon of the fest and some balloons make it as far as the east coast in their endeavor to be the best.
• All of these potential adventures include access to a field filled with live music, various vendors and fantastic food trucks. So stop what you're doing and try to catch a taste of fall in Albuquerque before it flies away again for another year.