The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of a local radio station’s 50th anniversary. The manager asked the owner of the only hot air balloon in New Mexico if it could be used as a part of the celebration. As the two men talked their idea grew to invite other balloonists from around the country. On April 8, 1972 with 13 balloons launching from a parking lot of a shopping center. Because fall is a better flying time, the event was changed to October in 1975. At one time there were as many as 1000 balloons flying over Albuquerque, but the number was lowered to 600 in 2006 due to safety reasons. At the present time, over 100,000 spectators may be on the launch field to witness the ascension. The Dawn Patrol, started in 1978, are balloon pilots who take off before dawn to assess wind speeds and directions at different altitudes, advising other balloonists as to whether they should launch or not. The Mass Ascension is one of the biggest events of the fiesta. All of the balloons launch at about the same time, just as the sun comes up. It is a spectacular site.
Early on Saturday morning (4:30 AM), we loaded up and headed toward the balloon park for the mass ascension. Not wanting to fight the traffic, we opted for the shuttle, which is a great idea most of the time (more on that later). The weather was quite cold, but anticipation of what was to come warmed our spirits. Once there we indulged in coffee, breakfast burritos and mini donuts.
Then came the announcement! The wind was too strong for a launch. So there we were with thousands of other people with nothing to do but shop and go home. Arriving at the shuttle stop we found the line to return to the cars snaked on and on. It was about 7:30 and the return shuttles were not due to arrive until 8:30. What could we do? Our local cousin (and tour guide) designed an alternate plan. We hiked about a mile to a local gas station where Alison (his wife) picked us up. Back at their home, we all fell into bed for a nap!
But, our day was not complete. Our meal for the night was at Farm and Table; a restaurant that designs its seasonal menu around locally sourced ingredients. The photos tell the story.
October 6, 2012