Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Colors the Skies
If you come to Albuquerque in October, be prepared for a whole lot of hot air – and for the unforgettable sight of hundreds of brilliant balloons floating through the desert sky. The 37th edition of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, by far the largest balloon event in the world, takes place Oct. 4-12, 2008.
The early dawn spectacle of 700 giant, colorful balloons ascending en masse defies description, says Paul R. Smith, executive director of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “Regardless of how well or how much we explain, people just won’t believe it until they come and see it,” he says. “Kodak actually told us that [the Balloon Fiesta] is the most photographed event in the world.” Held every year since 1972, the nine-day festival has become so renowned that, according to Smith, no matter where in the country or even the world you go, when you say you’re from Albuquerque, people respond, “Oh yeah, the balloons!” “It’s nice to be well-known for something people love,” Smith says.
In fact, people love it so much that attendance has grown to a whopping 900,000 spectators who converge on the 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park to walk among the balloons and witness festival events, as well as sample New Mexico’s food, wine and culture.
A 2006 study estimated that Fiesta attendees spend nearly $120 million in Albuquerque each year – a huge boon to the city’s economy.
And while area businesses enjoy the economic boost, virtually everyone enjoys the Wells Fargo Special Shape Rodeo – a launch of imaginatively shaped balloons.
“Wells Fargo has a rich history of more than 20 years as one of the largest corporate balloon programs in the United States,” says Greg Winegardner, regional president. “Our pilots enjoy traveling throughout New Mexico with the Wells Fargo balloons to entertain the public, our customers and our employees.”
“When you see a balloon shaped like the cow that jumped over the moon, or the Wells Fargo stagecoach, or Mr. Sunny Skies – the sun wearing a pair of sunglasses – or two bees holding hands ascending into the sky,” Smith says, “it really brings the kid out in you.”