If you’re planning your ticket purchase for the Observation Deck and you think the Mass Ascension is the best Balloon Fiesta event, keep reading…
True or False?
Regardless of the name or format of the morning event, ALL of the balloons participating in Balloon Fiesta are scheduled to fly every day. That means that if there are 500+ balloons registered, 500 balloons will fly each of the 9 mornings during the event (weather permitting, of course).
During the Mass Ascension, whether it’s a Mass Ascension, Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension, or Farewell Mass Ascension, the goal of the event is for the balloons to launch and fly. Depending on wind patterns, they may fly away, hover near the launch field, or fly in the famous Albuquerque Box pattern.
The grass portion of Balloon Fiesta Park, called the Launch Field, is almost 80 acres. Yet that’s still not large enough for 500+ balloons to literally launch at once. Most balloons are 75-100’ in height, while special shaped balloons can be even larger, and thus need even more space to lay flat and spread out before inflation begins. So, the field is filled twice, and the balloons launch in waves.
In the Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension (on the Wednesday during Balloon Fiesta), all balloons launch from the Park while all of the nations represented at the event (which can be up to 50!) are honored. Up to two balloons from each country launch after the “Sponsor of the Day” balloon launches. Each balloon will carry its country’s flag.
While the Mass Ascensions are spectacular, what if you could double the beauty with two events?
Nine Mornings, Two Formats
When you view the Balloon Fiesta Event Schedule, you’ll see different names for the morning events – Mass Ascension, Double Balloon Launch and Competition, Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension, Special Shape Rodeo, and Farewell Mass Ascension. All of these morning fall into two basic launch formats:
The Beauty of the Double Launch
In the Double Launch, two launch events take place.
A “Mini” Mass Ascension
In the first event the non-competing balloons launch in the same wave pattern as a mass ascension. With as many as 300+ balloons taking to the sky, you might consider this a mini-mass ascension!
A Second Event and Show of Skill
When those balloons have left the launch field, the rest of the registered balloons will launch from outside Balloon Fiesta Park and attempt to fly to the targets located on the Launch Field. Thus, when you’re at the Observation Deck at the Balloon Museum, you can watch the inflation and launch of more balloons than anywhere else in the country, and then watch a second balloon event – the culmination of another 200-300 balloons’ flights!
The competitions are an elegant display of piloting expertise. As with all hot air balloon flights, a balloon is maneuvered by the addition of hot air to ascend, the release of hot air to descend, and the navigation of wind currents to travel in a particular direction. “Steering” a balloon in this fashion to get close to a target, but within certain restrictions, takes skill and experience.
What’s in it for the balloonists? Prizes range from gift baskets, to cash and cars!
Still More Benefits
There are other benefits to attending on Double Launch days. The balloons often stay on the field longer, the crowds and traffic are usually lighter, and you have the opportunity to talk to balloon crews and flight officials when you might not be able to do so during the mass ascensions.
We’re Not Done Yet!
If that wasn’t enough, on Thursday and Friday of Balloon Fiesta, the Special Shapes are the stars of the first part of the double launches. Mixed among the “regular” shaped balloons, the shapes are assigned to launch sites that maximize visitor access – ensuring the best photo opportunities. Rest assured, however, Thursday and Friday are NOT the only days the special shapes participate. You’ll see them throughout the week in both mass ascensions and double launches.
Ultimately, no matter which morning you decide to attend Balloon Fiesta, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of hot air balloons, of all shapes and sizes. Elevate your experience at the Observation Deck!
Make the most of competition-watching by identifying the participating pilots and their balloons at AIBF Pilot Participation, using the Balloon Fiesta app, or picking up an Official Balloon Fiesta Program in the Museum Shoppe.
See competition results at AIBF Competition Scores or on Balloon Fiesta social media outlets.