Record crowds are expected for this year’s 50th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and along with that will be a much larger presence of security and law enforcement officials, as well as increased presence of fire and rescue personnel.
During a safety briefing at Balloon Fiesta Park on Thursday, fiesta officials declined to provide exact numbers but did say the increase will be “noticeable” and will involve members from city, county, state and federal offices.
“One of the things that we looked at throughout the year, based on different things that have happened in the United States and around the world, is people doing bad things at large scale events,” said Sean Wallace, the fiesta’s director of public safety.
Concealed carry firearms will not be allowed on Balloon Fiesta Park by anyone other than law enforcement officers who are on duty. Knives with a blade longer than 3 inches are also prohibited, Wallace said.
People entering the park will have to pass through a metal detector. Handbags and backpacks will be searched, but those with see-through bags and backpacks will pass through more quickly.
While alcohol will be sold through vendors at the park, the public may not bring alcohol in from the outside. They may carry in food and other drinks, but not in glass receptacles. Wagons, folding chairs and blankets will also be allowed but will be subject to a search upon entering, he said. The only animals allowed into the park will be service animals.
New Mexico State Police will once again operate the Tag Your Tots program, and this year there will be multiple registration places at the park, said Deputy Chief Matt Broom. Kids will be given a wristband with contact information that can be used in the event a child gets lost. He also encouraged families to tag adult visitors who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue will be on hand to regularly inspect vendor booths, make sure fire codes are enforced, keep fire lanes clear for emergency vehicles and have fire suppression crews strategically placed throughout the park, said Deputy Fire Chief Kris Romero. AFR personnel will also work with on-site Lovelace Hospital medical professionals to provide emergency medical services.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said deputies will be engaged in traffic control and will have an on-field presence, and Albuquerque Police DeputyCmdr. Mike Meisinger said commuters should not park on the side of roads or in business parking lots to watch the balloons, nor should they leave valuables in their vehicles when parking.