Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Preview
When: October 1-9, 2011
What: Balloon pilots and spectators gather for 9 colorful days to enjoy the world’s oldest aviation sport. With 600 balloons (cut back from 750 in 2001), it is dubbed “The Greatest Show Off Earth,” fitting for a state with high numbers of UFO sightings.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of Albuquerque’s largest tourist attractions and has grown to be the largest ballooing event in the world. With an event line up including pilotting, skill, and speed competitions as well as mass ascensions and balloon glows, this unique event will be sure to please!
Couple of Sports will be right in the middle of the action serving on a pilot’s crew.
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico. The combination of cool morning temperartures and the “Albuquerque Box,” have contributed to the popularity of hosting the sporting event in this region.
The “Albuquerque Box” is a set of wind patterns; low winds move in one direction while the higher winds move in the opposite direction. This helps the balloons to be more dirigible, as the aviators cannot control the horizontal direction of the balloon. The winds allow a pilot to take off and land in the same spot, which is also beneficial for spectators, so they do not have to move to see the take off and landing of balloon.
Why: The balloon fiesta began in 1972 as a part of a birthday celebration for KOB Radio, a popular local station. The only owner of a hot air balloon in New Mexico at the time agreed to allow the balloon to be used as part of the party. Event organizers attempted to beat out the then-record of 19 balloons gathered at a time, but due to weather around the country, only 13 arrived.
The Balloon Fiesta has grown rapidly and is now the largest gathering of balloons in the world. In 2000, just over 1,000 balloons were registered, however the number was capped at 750 in 2001 and in 2009 was reduced further to 600. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 fans are on the premises each day with thousands more looking on from other places all over the city.