50th Annual Balloon Fiesta!

Huge balloon fiesta milestone unfortunately marked by rain and cancellations


Hannah Topf '23

The first day of Balloon Fiesta 2022 had perfect weather

This year was the 50th Annual International Balloon Fiesta! In what was supposed to be a milestone year, many of the sessions were washed out by unexpected rainstorms. But while the hot air balloons are obviously important to the balloon fiesta, the real charm of the event comes from how enriched it is with New Mexican culture.
Occurring every October, the Balloon Fiesta is a quintessential representation of New Mexico and a state tradition that should not be missed. The first real “Hot Air Balloon Festival” occurred in 1972, with a mere thirteen balloons in an Albuquerque mall parking lot, but today, the Balloon Fiesta is much grander. With over 600 balloons that were slated to rise this year, Albuquerque has been christened the “Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World.” The predictable wind conditions (the “Albuquerque Box”), cool air temperatures, and open landscapes are all factors that make balloons rise and fly better here.
I’ve gone to the Balloon Fiesta almost every year since 2010. I always loved watching the special shapes (although I didn’t get to see them this year), especially the family of bees. It’s lucky that Joelly (the baby bee) was found after being “stolen.” I enjoy visiting the booths too, and every time we go I buy some sort of cheap souvenir, even though I live in New Mexico. My favorite by far are the toy alpacas made with real alpaca wool.
I went to the Balloon Festival this year on the morning of Saturday, October 8th. We got to the park with hopes of a picturesque mass ascension. The booths bustled with customers, and obviously, the longest waits were for the food. (There was a snaking line for Tom-Thumb Donuts, and for a good reason; they are delicious). The shops were doing well too! A steady stream of people shuffled through the tents buying fiesta memorabilia.

Per usual (for this year), with too much moisture in the air, mass ascension was canceled. And, because dawn patrol was also called off, pilots put on a “candlestick show,” consisting of pilots haphazardly lighting the burners from inside their baskets. But it generated warmth for my freezing self and got people’s spirits up after they learned that the balloons themselves were canceled. The best part of the morning was definitely the planes flying overhead after the national anthem (sponsored by Krispy Kreme, of course.)
Walking through Balloon Fiesta Park though, the energy was still high. Children were running around with lightsabers and inflatable cartoon characters, blowing bubbles everywhere. People were bundled up in alpaca wool sweaters and Native American patterned blankets (that they definitely had bought that morning). The crews of the balloons were super sweet, and some even gave me balloon cards. The mood was pretty joyful amidst the cancellation. I could definitely feel the typical Balloon Fiesta culture all around me and, overall, it was a pretty pleasant Balloon Fiesta, just without the balloons.