The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly hot air balloon festival that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during early October. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event occurring in the first full week of October, and has over 500 hot air balloons each year far from its humble beginnings of merely 13 balloons in 1972. The event is the largest balloon festival in the world, followed by the Grand Est Mondial Air in France.
The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities.
The two began discussing ballooning, along with conversation and help from Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. The first fiesta ended up as a gathering of 13 balloons on April 8, 1972, sponsored by KOB. The first event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall with 20,000 spectators and with balloonists from Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Texas taking part. McKee, Cutter, and Kratz are the three men who had originally started the balloon races.
The Balloon Fiesta grew each year for decades, and today is the largest balloon convention in the world. The number of registered balloons reached a peak of 1,019 in 2000, prompting the Balloon Fiesta Board to limit the number to 750 starting in 2001, citing a desire for "quality over quantity". The limit was changed to 600 in 2009 –; citing recent growth in the city and a loss of landing zones.
On any given day during the festival, up to 100,000 spectators may be on the launch field where they are provided the rare opportunity to observe inflation and take off procedures. Countless more people gather at landing sites all over the city to watch incoming balloons. It has increased to 1,000 in 2011. The COVID-19 pandemic was the chief cause of 2020 going into hiatus until 2021.
According to en.wikipedia