Balloon Fiesta Flies High

After a cancelled year, the fiesta has a successful re-launch

Albuquerque’s 49th annual International Balloon Fiesta began Saturday morning, October 2nd, marking the return of the well-known tourist attraction. For nine days during the Balloon Fiesta, balloonists and tourists from all over the world swarmed to Albuquerque to enjoy the 2021 Balloon Fiesta. After a year break due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Balloon Fiesta Park was filled with an excited crowd, vibrant hot-air balloons, launch directors (recognizably dressed as zebras), aromatic food stalls, and a very muddy field.
Each frigid fiesta morning about a dozen balloons called the Dawn Patrol, ascend to the early morning skies prompting cheers from the excited and cold crowd below. Fellow balloonists closely watch the Dawn Patrol as those early balloons are an indicator of early wind speeds and direction.
As the Dawn Patrol pilots begin their descent back to earth, the first of two waves known as “Mass Ascensions” inflate their balloons before lifting off. Illuminated by flickers of the flame burner, you can watch as the early morning balloon crews unravel their hot air balloons and inflate them. One by one the balloons then slowly ascend into the New Mexican skies. At first, it’s mostly the Rainbow Ryder balloons with their signature yellow and rainbow swirls but as the sun rises, the basic colorful balloons also take to the skies, followed by the much more exciting special shaped balloons. This year there were 83 special shaped balloons, including the crowd favorite balloon; Airabelle the 120 foot wide and 100 foot tall creamland cow.
Even though it is called the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, there is more to it than just watching balloons. Not only are there food and souvenir stalls that cover over ⅓ of a mile along the Balloon Fiesta’s main street, but you can also get close to the balloons and watch them lift off. The hustle of the zebras and the lift-off crew is mesmerizing and the warm puffs of air produced by the flame in the hot air balloons are addicting.
Overall, the Balloon Fiesta is truly a unique experience and one I recommend everyone partake in at least once. Even if you see balloons in the sky on the way to work or school, they appear to be tiny and stationary. Until you stand under or next to them in person; you can’t absorb their size, detail, and observe how fast they move. The Balloon Fiesta itself is also about the atmosphere and the great food and exploring offered.