Full of Hot Air: Great Ballooning Adventures

New Mexico: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
  |  Gorp.com

The ultimate balloon festival takes place every October, when Albuquerque hosts 800,000 people viewing over 800 balloons. With legions of balloons filling the sky with color, the nine-day Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is a photographer's fantasy come true. Spectators can spot everything, from small solo balloons to huge replicas of cartoon characters, UFOs, to incredible replicas of trains, chinese pagodas, Russian dolls, and just about anything else you could imagine. On three days of the festival, balloons lift off by the hundreds in mass ascention at dawn. On each Sunday at sunset, more than 300 balloons take to the sky; as night falls, the glow like giant candles in the sky. Weather permitting, they also execute "balloon glows"—over 100 balloons are tethered to the ground and the envelopes are lit in unison, the night sky filling with glowing balloons like a field of gigantic light bulbs.

Ballooning is just part of the Albuquerque extravaganza. Past events have featured the U.S. Navy Skydiving Team, as well as the Misty Blues, an all-female skydiving team. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team traditionally performs during the Fiesta's final weekend, demonstrating wild freefalls and intricate aerial maneuvers.
Fiesta-goers rub elbows with an international ballooning crowd. This event attracts balloon pilots and support crews from dozens of countries worldwide, including Germany, Luxembourg, France, England, Japan and Switzerland.

For information, contact the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, (505.821.1000. www.balloonfiesta.com). For lodging, get in touch with the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800.243.3696 or 505.842.9918). To arrange a flight, contact the World Balloon Corporation (800.351.9588 or 505.293.6800. www.worldballoon.com).

After the fiesta, venture up to Taos for a low-level flight through the gorge of the Rio Grande with Pueblo Balloons (505.751.9877 or 915.537.2794. www.puebloballoon.com). Pilot Johnny Lewis, who boast more than 33 years of flight experience, guides you on a spectacular flight through this canyon measuring 1,000 feed wide and 700 feet deep. You fly over the lip of the gorge at dawn; then, following the river, you gently descend toward the canyon floor. Eagles often glide beside the balloon as it floats next to dramatic rock formations. Finally, you gradually ascend high above the gorge for a climactic view of the entire Rio Grande Valley. All this will set you back about $215.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 18 Jul 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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