• Event to honor original 13 pilots and balloons

Albuquerque – The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta first took shape with an inaugural launch of 13 balloons, 50 years ago.

On Friday, September 30, Balloon Fiesta will host a reenactment of the first flight that launched from Coronado Center, at 6600 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque.

The reenactment will kick off festivities for the 50th event and commemorate the 13 original balloons and people who helped make that April 8, 1972 launch possible. It all started as a 50th anniversary celebration of KOB Radio (now known as Newsradio KKOB.)

The 1972 event, held at Coronado Center and labeled as the “First Annual KOB Radio & Television International Balloon Festival” is now considered to be the first Balloon Fiesta flight. The idea was hatched by three Albuquerque residents. Balloonist Sid Cutter brainstormed the idea with KOB Radio General Manager Dick McKee and Tom Rutherford, who was an announcer with the station.

Commemorative event banners will be flown from each of the 13 gondolas, each honoring the original balloons and pilots including:

Bill Cutter, Sid Cutter, Gene Dennis,* Dennis Floden*

Don Kersten, Oscar Kratz, Bill Murtorff, Donald Piccard

Wilma Piccard, Karl Stefan, Brent Stockwell, Carter Twedt*

Matt Wiederkehr

*Attending the event

There were a number of people who helped to make this first flight possible and who helped to establish Albuquerque as the Balloon Capital of the World. Balloon Fiesta has invited these influencers to represent some of the Balloon Fiesta founders:

  • Jewel Cutter – representing her late husband, and original Balloon Fiesta pilot, Sid Cutter.
  • Steve McKee – representing his father, Dick McKee. Dick McKee was the general manager of KOB-AM in 1972 and helped brainstorm and create the first Balloon Fiesta.
  • Jeremy Rutherford – representing his father, Tom Rutherford. Tom Rutherford worked at KOB-AM and helped make the first event a reality.
  • Mike Draper – representing his father, Don Draper. Don Draper was the first Balloon Fiesta Balloonmeister and flew with Sid Cutter at the first event.
  • Greg Yost – representing his father, Ed Yost. Ed Yost is an iconic balloon pilot and architect.
  • Denise Wiederkehr McDonald – representing her father, Matt Wiederkehr. She took flight in the balloon piloted by Matt Wiederkehr.

The event coincides with Albuquerque Aloft, Balloon Fiesta’s community launch from local elementary schools on Sept. 30 around 7 a.m.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, powered by ExxonMobil is a festival of hot air balloons that takes place in October. It is the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. The 2019 event generated $186.82 million into the Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico economies. For details on events, schedule, entertainment and photographs visit the website www.balloonfiesta.com and follow on Twitter @BalloonFiesta and Facebook.