Balloons lit up as dusk fell over Balloon Fiesta park during the first glow of the 2017 Balloon Fiesta. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)


  • Balloon fiesta organizers are looking for 200 feet by 200 feet open spaces without trees or power lines for balloons to land in.


World records are nothing new to organizers of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

The event set the world record for biggest mass ascension of hot air balloons in 2010, 2011 and again in 2019. This year, organizers aim to add two more world records to balloon fiesta history: the highest number of balloons glowing at night, and the biggest number of remote controlled balloons in the sky at once.

“It’s like having 10 Super Bowls, every day, in Albuquerque. But our footballs are balloons,” said Al Tertreault, balloon fiesta board president, at a Wednesday Economic Forum of Albuquerque panel focused on the upcoming fiesta.

This year is the second time that the balloon fiesta has hosted the “Fiesta de los Globitos,” where kids and adults alike pilot 7- to 8- foot tall balloons via remote control. Last year, the event had 30 participants. This year, 85 people will remotely launch the “miniature” balloons.

“It’s teaching those children to get into ballooning,” said Sam Parks, director of operations of the balloon fiesta.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the balloon fiesta after the 2020 gathering was canceled.

To celebrate the anniversary, organizers are recreating the original ascension at Coronado Center, where the first balloon fiesta was hosted. Three of the four surviving pilots from the original event will be present Sept. 30, when 13 balloons will commemorate the 1972 launch.

Paul Smith, executive director of the balloon fiesta, said he remembers seeing the first ascension from the windows of his high school classroom.

“It was something that caught my eye back then, and obviously it caught the eye of Albuquerque,” Smith said at the Wednesday meeting.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, musicians will be able to perform at Music Fiesta. This year’s fiesta features musical guests Restless Road, Lainey Wilson and Cole Swindell.

Similarly, the interactive Balloon Discovery Center, where kids can learn about the physics of ballooning, will return this year after a COVID-induced hiatus.

This year also marks the return of international balloons and balloonists. Twenty-two different countries will be in attendance this year, as well as 45 out of 50 states. Taiwan and Ukraine will both represented at the festival.

“We have more balloons than we have room for,” Parks said. “… Everybody wanted to come.”

The fiesta had to turn away more than 200 pilots interested in attending; this year, every launch square will be assigned four pilots, with over 600 primary pilots total.

The fiesta sold out of several experiences, including its glamping facilities, RVs, chasers’ club and concierge system “minutes within opening sales,” Smith said. This year, they’re introducing “skyboxes,” made out of shipping containers with elevated platforms, that are still available to reserve.

At the meeting, organizers expressed anxieties about the future of balloon fiesta due to a shortage of landing sites. Balloon fiesta organizers are looking for 200 feet by 200 feet open spaces without trees or power lines for balloons to land in.

“That is the biggest problem we are going to suffer through,” Tetreault said.

Tetreault also called on local hotels to provide housing for pilots.

“It is truly a community effort,” Smith said.