The world’s largest hot air balloon festival [PICS]
THIS YEAR WAS THE 40th ANNUAL Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. The event draws thousands of spectators and balloonists from around the world. More balloonists per capita live in Albuquerque than anywhere else in the world, and even though the festival is only during a limited time, the weather conditions in the area are such that you can take a balloon ride in the city year-round — be prepared to wake up early, the best time for flight is early in the morning with lower winds and cooler temperatures. There’s also the The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum that’s near the Fiesta balloon field that has some balloons on display along with historical and interactive exhibits.
The weather is usually right for hot air balloon flight throughout the event, but an outdoor, weather-dependent event in October in New Mexico means there is likely to be at least one day where things don’t go as planned. For me, it was the first two days of my three-day visit. I was convinced I’d be getting up at 4am to leave only having seen the balloons inflated, but none of them in the air.
But my last day, and the second to last day of the festival, the rain had cleared up, the winds had died down a bit, and while it wasn’t the record-breaking number of balloons in flight they had the weekend before, the balloons were flying.
A lot of people who’d been there before told me that to see the balloons in flight was “magical,” “amazing,” “like nothing you’ve ever seen,” etc. I smiled and nodded, thinking they were being perhaps a bit hyperbolic. They weren’t. I felt like a six-year-old at a birthday party — all smiles, excited, and not knowing which way to look.
The Balloonist’s Prayer
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
[Editor’s note: Kristin’s visit to Albuquerque was arranged in part by the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau.]