United States

The Balloon Fiesta

It’s tradition in Albuquerque to wake up at the crack of dawn at least once during the first weeks of October. Despite the arid climate, it’s wise to bundle up — early morning in the high desert can be colder than you might think. And if you’re going for the full experience, it’s best to bring your own food — preferably breakfast burritos from Golden Pride, Taco Cabana or Stripes — before driving to the northern edge of town for an annual tradition. If you have tickets, you can wander into the Balloon Fiesta park, but it’s just as fun to park on the outskirts of town, along Alameda or the Frontage Road, and watch from your car. At 7am the magic happens: hundreds of hot air balloons — some shaped like beloved cartoon characters, others bright hues of blue, red and yellow — take flight.

From the 78-acre Balloon Fiesta park in the northeastern quadrant of Albuquerque — where, in the early months of the pandemic, the national guard set up a COVID-19 testing site — the predictable October winds take those hundreds of ballooners on an aerial tour of Albuquerque. Most end up traveling along the Bosque, soaring over the Rio Grande river that divides the city in half, before eventually losing altitude and landing in backyards or atop office buildings.

It’s yet another tradition to help those hot air balloons land. To be on a morning walk when suddenly — what’s that? —a balloon is about to touch down on the street ahead of you. To clear the area of traffic or school children so it can safely land, or call the ballooner’s team, who will drive across town, trailer in tow, to safely bring down the nylon giant before packing it away until the next flight.


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