It's balloon fiesta time!
October 3, 2016 11:57 AM   Subscribe

It's that time of the year, when the high desert starts to cool down and the conditions are just right for ballooning. It's the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Nine days of hot air balloon-related events, from dawn patrol's lift-off to test conditions to Mass Ascension when hundreds of hot air balloons take flight, to the evening special shape Glowdeo and fireworks for good measure. And if conditions are right, there's America's Challenge, the long distance gas balloon race, and if you need to cool down from all this excitement, enjoy a little splash and dash.

There are quite a few hot air balloon festivals and races around the world, and Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta isn't the oldest, nor is it the longest running (it's close, but a few years too young), but it is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. And the ABQ Balloon Fiesta fought with the Lorraine World Air Balloon Festival in Chambley-Bussieres, France for most balloons launched in an hour. The Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons meeting taking the crown last year, with 433 hot air balloons launching in 2015.

If this sounds like something you might enjoy in person, keep in mind there were 955,703 visits last year, plus 550 registered balloon teams, which means a lot of people convening on the 78-acre launch field (Google maps). Some folks don't mind the trek to the launch field, and note you can see balloons from anywhere in Albuquerque if you don't want to travel to the field. But if you do want to find another place to view the balloons aloft, New Mexico Magazine offers some suggestions in their insider’s guide to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

If you're not in the area and you want to view live from afar, KOB, a local news station, has live video this upcoming weekend October 8-9, 2016 between 7-9 a.m. MT (9-11 a.m. ET / 13:00-15:00 GMT) as weather permits, and they have a live camera (webcam quality) of what is currently a quiet scene. You can get a look at the mass ascension from yesterday, Oct. 2, 2016, in this recording of almost 2 hours of KOB's live coverage with Steve Stucker, KOB's weatherman and Balloon Fiesta fanatic. Another local news station, KRQE, has some photo galleries. Or enjoy a short super-HQ timelapse video from Joel Schat and Roadtrippers from 2013.

And if you want more time-lapse videos, here's a time lapse of a Lindstrand USA basket being made from start to finish and a video shows the hard working seamstresses making a Lindstrand USA hot air balloon. If all this makes you want to learn how to pilot one, here's the FAA guidance and regulations, while Hot Air Flight, WikiHow, and How Stuff Works tell you about how to launch and operate a hot air balloon.
posted by filthy light thief (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If you're in town for the Fiesta, I highly recommend one avoids driving anywhere north of Osuna. You should take the Park and Ride instead. Make sure to get some extra hot Sadies while you're here!
posted by endotoxin at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

God I want to go here so bad. What is it, about 12 hours out from LA?
posted by malapropist at 2:11 PM on October 3, 2016

If there's a December best post content this year I'm going to to make sure this post retroactively wins.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:22 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Leave at 6 pm, arrive at noon by train is the gentlest way to go from hectic L.A. to Albuquerque. Last time I did this, I ran into a friend on board and we spent the whole trip chatting and enjoying ourselves.
posted by olopua at 2:48 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am so excited to check out all these videos. Thank you for the round up, filthy light thief!

The Balloon Fiesta has a special place in my heart even though I've never been there (or even been in a balloon): I work in local news and I just started in my fourth market. On Sunday, over the squawkbox feed from network, I heard, "Stations, available on Live Channel One is the feed from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta," and I said to my assignments editor, "I think I've run a kicker from that Fiesta every single year and at every single station I've been at. It's just such good video. It's got to be at least seven years now." And this morning he checked in with me to make sure I did not break my streak: I ran a kicker from the Balloon Fiesta. And it was, indeed, such good video.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 2:52 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Flagged for being just a lot of hot air.
posted by pjern at 5:30 PM on October 3, 2016

We just moved to Albuquerque, so this is my first time seeing the balloons. It's really breathtaking, even from quite a ways away. Makes me wonder, though, do traffic accidents happen more frequently the week of the festival? So many people are looking at the sky, not the road. Also our new favorite breakfast place is across from the park where everyone launches and there was no getting anywhere near it last Sunday.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:18 PM on October 3, 2016

Hot air balloons and...fireworks?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:23 AM on October 4, 2016

This marks the beginning of fall for us new mexicans. this and the sandhill cranes. if you visit for the balloons stay for the green chili...then leave please, visas are only good for a week.
posted by judson at 7:29 AM on October 4, 2016

WalkerWestridge: do traffic accidents happen more frequently the week of the festival?

Traffic-type guy here: I think it might be hard to separate "distracted driving" crashes from "too many people on the roads, including a lot of out-of-towners who are taking in the sights while driving" crashes.

judson: This marks the beginning of fall for us new mexicans. this and the sandhill cranes. if you visit for the balloons stay for the green chili...then leave please, visas are only good for a week.

New Mexico: It Ain't New and It Ain't Mexico

(I have the bumper sticker, but I haven't stuck it on our cars, because it feels like I'm being that guy. And that's not my favorite t-shirt style, I prefer one from The Range, but I can't find it online except sort of featured in one of their promo photos)
posted by filthy light thief at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2016

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