September 29, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2011

A Bird’s-Eye of the 2011 Balloon Fiesta

"Each year, this festival of human flight and kaleidoscopic panorama attracts some 750,000 visitors...and is often touted as the most-photographed event in the world..."

By Todd Eric Lovato

Fox in a Forest

Todd Eric Lovato is a Santa Fe native, the managing editor of SantaFe.com, an award-winning musician and an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome.

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Since launching its first hot air vessels into Albuquerque's crystal clear, balloon-friendly skies in 1972, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has risen to become the world's premier international ballooning event. Each year, this festival of human flight and kaleidoscopic panorama attracts some 750,000 visitors from around the world and receives news coverage from more than 50 countries. It is often touted as the most-photographed event in the world.

Balloon Fiesta 2011 takes place Oct. 1-9 and features participation from hundreds of international pilots and their support teams, navigating more than 600 hot-air balloons. Visitors can soak in everything from mass ascensions, dawn patrols, long-distance racing challenges, evening balloon glows, a special shapes rodeo (or “Glowdeo”), live entertainment, photo contests and an after glow fireworks show.

The epicenter of the festivities is the Balloon Fiesta Park, which during the fiesta boasts 200 acres of grass lined with giant balloons and their flight teams as well as numerous booths and vendors selling everything from food to balloon merchandise. No doubt, this year thousands of Santa Feans will again grab their cameras and windbreakers and make their way south to join in the menagerie. Make the most out of this year's Balloon Fiesta with some of the following information:

  • The Fiesta runs from Oct. 1-9. Weather permitting, mornings begin at -- yawn, stretch – 5:45 a.m. with a Dawn Patrol Show, where pilots ascend into the dark morning sky and fly until it's bright enough to locate their landing spots. Evening events throughout the fiesta vary by day, so visit this daily event schedule to plan your visit.

  • Transportation services to the park include convenient Park and Ride shuttle schedules. Balloon Fiesta public parking sites are also available, and visitors are encouraged to purchase advance admission tickets. Here is a helpful article on public transportation options to the fiesta. Also, the New Mexico RailRunner will be running on its regular schedule, however there are no connecting shuttles to and from the train stations. Click here for more info on getting there.

  • Advance admission tickets can be purchased by calling (888) 422-7277, and include admission to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum during the fiesta. General parking is $10 a car. Full ticket info here.

  • Balloon rides are available to the brave and adventurous, but make your reservations now.

  • This year's musical entertainment lineup includes performances by CALQL8TRZ, James Douglas Show, Jason Thomas and Travis Powell, Austin Hicks and Funky Town. More info.

For more information, the Balloon Fiesta website offers a wealth of details. This F.A.Q. Is particularly educational.

Bon voyage!

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