Hawaii Mom Blog: Visit New Mexico: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta




November 5, 2018

Visit New Mexico: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

While searching for hotels in Albuquerque for our recent trip, I was quite surprised that nearly every hotel I looked at was almost sold out. I finally discovered the reason thanks to a very friendly employee in the Sales department of an ABQ hotel - we were arriving during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!

Thankfully, I was able to secure a room (tip: book early - we booked only two months out), and I was very fortunate to have been granted Media Credentials to cover this world-renowned event. The 47th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, themed Carry Me Away, drew 886,037 guests during the 9-day event.

14 countries were represented, registering 567 regular-shaped balloons, and 96 special-shaped balloons.

Throughout the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, guests can get tickets for morning or evening sessions. There are morning laser light shows, evening balloon glows, balloon competitions, as well as skydiving, chainsaw carving, and concerts.

New to Balloon Fiesta this year was the Glamping and Concierge programs.

There are many activities for guests to participate in, and many vendors selling everything from food to blankets (it was very chilly!).

We arrived in Albuquerque with only two days left of the event.

We planned to go to a morning session, which meant arriving at the parking lot very, very early. The lot opened at 4:30am, and we were stuck in traffic near the Balloon Fiesta Park at around 4:00am (tip: go EARLY!). The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta does offer Park & Ride tickets for those who choose not to drive to the event on their own.

After going through a bag check, we entered Balloon Fiesta Park before dawn, where thousands of people were already lining up for food or sitting on the grass to watch the Dawn Patrol, a group of selected balloons that launch prior to sunrise on the days of Mass Ascensions. After Dawn Patrol was the Krispy Kreme Morning Glow and Laser Light Show, and then the excitement grew as more and more hot air balloons were inflated, getting ready for the Mass Ascension, when all 500+ balloons launch.

I was extremely excited to have been able to go up on my very first hot air balloon ride during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I was assigned Ham-let, a pig-shaped balloon, flown by Pilot Doug Gantt of When Pigs Fly. I observed the process of putting the hot air balloon together and inflating it, and after signing a waiver, I hopped in with a few other guests.

One of the first things I noticed was the height of the basket. It looked pretty easy to fall out!

Do I look nervous?
Pilot Doug Gantt
And the thought of flying amongst hundreds of other balloons made it even scarier, as you really have to be aware of other balloons all around you.  

But once we were up in the air, I was able to enjoy the ride.  I took many photos, and simply was in awe of the view.

To say it was an incredible experience would be an understatement.  To be flying with hundreds of other balloons was magnificent.  It was such an amazing sight!

We even did a "Splash and Dash" in the Rio Grande (the balloon touches the water and goes back up in the air).
Splash and Dash

We were in the air for about 30 minutes, and our landing was a little rough, but it was truly an experience I will never forget.  

After helping the Chase Crew with the packing up of the hot air balloon (which is quite a lengthy process), Doug's team went through a ritual, which included jumping onto the packed up balloon to ensure any bad energy gets released, as well as celebrating with some Champagne.

Doug was a great pilot, and he made sure safety was the number one priority.

Although some events do get cancelled due to poor weather (four sessions of fourteen were cancelled this year), guests are issued "rain checks" for future sessions.

Thank you to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and Doug Gantt for an amazing time!
The 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will be held October 5 -13.

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