October 4, 2012 at 3:01 PM

A Quick Guide to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The international hot air balloon spectacle takes place Oct. 6-14

By Todd Eric Lovato

Fox in a Forest

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

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This week, thousands of Santa Feans will grab their cameras and windbreakers and make their way to Albuquerque to join in the aerial menagerie known world-wide as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Since launching its first hot air vessels into Albuquerque's cerulean, balloon-friendly skies in 1972, the Balloon Fiesta has risen to become the world's premier annual international ballooning event. Often touted as the most-photographed event in the world, the festival, attracts some 750,000 visitors from around the world and receives news coverage from more than 50 countries.

Balloon Fiesta 2012 takes place Oct. 6-14 and features hundreds of international pilots and their support teams, navigating more than 600 hot-air balloons. Visitors can soak in everything from morning-time mass ascensionsdawn patrols, interntaional long-distance racing challengesevening balloon glows, a special shapes rodeo (or “Glowdeo”), live entertainmentphoto contests and an after glow fireworks show.

The epicenter of the fiesta is the Balloon Fiesta Park, which boasts 200 acres of lush grass lined with hot air balloons and their flight teams, all flanked by numerous booths and vendors selling everything from food to balloon merchandise. Get the most out of this year's Balloon Fiesta with the following information:

  • The Fiesta runs from Oct. 6-14. Weather permitting, mornings begin at -- yawn, stretch – 5:45 a.m. with a Dawn Patrol Show, in which pilots ascend into the dark morning sky and fly until it's bright enough to descend on 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. Consider avoiding traffic on a bicycle by participating in the Bike Valet program. 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 Derryl Perry, Sarah Peacock, Fierce Bad Rabbit, Jason Thomas, Brandon Johnson, Severo y Grupo Fuego, Ernestine Romero and Soul Kitchen. 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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