The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Or, The Golden Age of Ballooning.

I’ve been itching to go to the Balloon Fiesta since Tom told me about it over 3 years ago. I know nothing about ballooning nor have I previously been to a hot air balloon event before, but the idea of seeing dozens of balloons launching from up close really intrigued me. Tom’s description of the nighttime glow events sounded beautiful too. And so, as we are living temporarily in Santa Fe, it seemed that this year would be a perfect opportunity to go.

The Albuquerue International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. Multiple hundreds of balloons launch in the early mornings of the festival during “mass ascensions,” and significant numbers also participate in the evening glows in which the balloons are lit from the inside while tethered to the ground. Because I had an interest in seeing both types of events – both morning and night – we decided to make two separate trips down to Albuquerque.

While the idea of seeing so many balloons was thrilling the prospect of walking around with literally ten thousand people did not excite me so much however so we decided to watch the morning mass ascension from outside the fairgrounds. We did follow a few balloons that were landing in the surrounding area though which gave me the chance to see them up close.

For the evening glow however we knew we’d have to buy tickets and actually go into the event in order to see the balloons hovering over their grounded baskets. The balloon grounds were a zoo, packed with families, strollers, and running children. Weaving our way through the crowd we first stopped to watch one of the first balloons inflate; by the time it was up dusk had fallen and we were surrounded by a hundred different lit-up shapes. Periodically the balloons would be lit by propane from underneath, causing them to glow, but timed countdowns also occurred in which all the balloons would light up. It was definitely an experience. Again however, jostling through the seas of people in the dark was not really our thing and so after walking up and down the field for 45 minutes we made our way to the exit.