On a clear morning in April of 1972, thirteen hot air balloons launched from Albuquerque’s Coronado Mall to a cheering crowd of ten thousand spectators. The event was a promotional stunt meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of local radio station KOB (now KKOB). Little did organizers know, that launch would mark the first annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®, which this October will celebrate its own 50th anniversary.
Over the years, the Balloon Fiesta has ballooned in size, becoming the world’s largest gathering of balloons and balloonists and attracting more than 800,000 visitors each fall. It has also repeatedly earned the title of “the world’s most photographed event” with an estimated twenty-five million photos taken. The lighter-than-air crafts have become so synonymous with Albuquerque and such a great source of city and state pride that depictions of brightly colored balloons adorn everything from our buildings to buses to license plates.
The City of Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park moved to its current location in 1996, with the 360-acre launch field fully grassed in the year 2002. From sports practices and games to weddings and concerts, the park itself has become an integral part of the greater Albuquerque community. In 2005, Balloon Fiesta Park also became home to the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, an institution committed to presenting and promoting the sport, history, and culture of ballooning year round. Each fall, the museum collaborates with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta organization to create a convenient, integrated, and exhilarating experience for park guests. Thanks to the museum’s close proximity to the launch field, visitors can partake in the Balloon Fiesta’s thrilling mass ascensions, Dawn Patrols, and Balloon Glows, and the museum’s fascinating exhibits and programming all in one place.
Special events at the Balloon Museum planned for the Balloon Fiesta’s 50th anniversary include spectacular balloon viewing opportunities, ticketed VIP dining events, and a much anticipated exhibition “Canopy of Color” that includes an in-depth look at the history of Balloon Fiesta featuring an interactive timeline, personal interviews, memorabilia, art and artifacts, and much more.
Despite the 2020 cancellation and 2021 restrictions, the 2022 Balloon Fiesta promises a brilliant celebration, featuring over 650 balloons, including 120 special shapes and the 50th Anniversary balloon “Fiesta Gold,” nine days and five nights of incredible food, music, flying competitions, fireworks, commemorative merchandise and collectibles, and other family friendly events designed to commemorate the historic occasion.
The Balloon Fiesta’s 50th anniversary is a monumental achievement for both the organization and for the city of Albuquerque. This October’s celebration is not to be missed!