Home Feature 50th Balloon Fiesta kicks off in Albuquerque, New Mexico

50th Balloon Fiesta kicks off in Albuquerque, New Mexico

by Yucatan Times
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New MexicoDriving from Arkansas to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta was a romantic gesture from John Brandhorst to celebrate his wedding anniversary with wife, Cherie.

“He never told me where we were going until we got here,” she said. “I had no idea.”

The surprise was well worth it – to both of the Mountain Home residents.

“It’s pure artistry and creativity, how they come up with the colors and schemes,” Cherie said, her neck craning to the sky.


“Breathtaking,” said John. “And how do they keep from bumping into each other?”

In what can only be described as a picture-perfect morning, about 625 balloons launched in a mass ascension early Saturday as the 50th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta got underway.

In a fiesta first, an intricately-choreographed midair drone show of constantly changing lights, colors and messages danced above the launch field. That was followed by a chorus singing the national anthem and broadcast over the launch field’s loud speakers. As it finished, pilots in unison shot plumes of flames into the air from the their burners and a squadron of airplanes in formation flew over the field trailing smoke.

As the roar of propane burners vibrated throughout the field, spectators surrounded inflating balloons. The bright, golden-colored 50th Fiesta balloon led the first wave of the mass ascension and soon the sky above was filled with colorful balloons, most of which eventually drifted to the west.

Although official attendance numbers are not available, anecdotally, Saturday’s fiesta opening was “definitely one of the – if not the – largest opening-day crowd ever,” said fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity. “People started showing up at 2:45 a.m., earlier than we’ve ever seen. We anticipated the large crowds knowing that this is the celebration of the 50th event, and that the weather was going to be good.”

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By 4:30 a.m., Main Street was packed with people. The official merchandise tent at the south end of the street saw a line that snaked out nearly 100 feet from the entrance. Vendors selling breakfast burritos, coffee and hot chocolate also saw throngs of people lining up in the pre-launch darkness.

Sandra Karenbauer, visiting from Pittsburgh with her daughter, learned of the fiesta from a friend at work who attended years ago.

“She loved it and told me it’s something you have to see before you bite the dust,” she said while waiting in a long line outside a merchandise tent. “So it’s been on my bucket list for 10 or 11 years.”

Standing in a nearly as long food line waiting to order breakfast burritos was William Gensler and his wife, Chanel Gensler, both from New Orleans. In Albuquerque for just over two years, William is completing his medical residency at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

“They canceled fiesta the first year we were here (because of COVID) and last year we finally got to see a mass ascension during the second weekend,” William said. “It’s just the most incredible thing. I actually cried with joy. They’re so much bigger than you’d imagine from looking at pictures, and then you see them inflate and they’re massive, but seeing hundreds of them inflate at the same time is just overwhelming.”

Said Chanel, who works in advertising: “We’re hooked on Albuquerque and we’re not leaving.”


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