UP AND AWAY

Posted on 10/05/2015 | About Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hundreds of colorful hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes and from all over the world will be lifted off this weekend for the start of the 44th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  
The nine-day fiesta - one of the most photographed events in the world - began Saturday just after the sun rose as wave after wave of balloons took to the sky as part of the first mass ascension. “Having 550 hot air balloons up in the air at once, that just doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. So this is, absolutely without a doubt, the Super Bowl of hot air ballooning,” said Scott Appelman, a veteran pilot and founder of the balloon ride company Rainbow Ryders Inc. Then there are the special shape rodeos, balloon glows in the evenings, flying competitions, a cross-country gas balloon race, and splash-and-dash flights along the Rio Grande.

One of the big draws of the balloon fiesta is the ability of spectators to roam the city's 72-acre balloon park to watch the morning mass ascensions. Visitors can find a spot on the grass to lay out the blanket or set up the folding chairs, but it's more fun to stand next to the roaring fans as the balloons inflate or be just steps away from the gondola as the propane burners ignite. It's also not unheard of to be recruited to hold a tether line as a crew prepares for launch. http://www.balloonfiesta.com