Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021: Awesome Or Not?

12 mins read
Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021
Illustration By ractopopulous - Pixabay Copyright 2018

The Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 started at Balloon Fiesta Park on October 2, 2021, and ended on October 10, 2021. This balloon fiesta was the 49th event & themed “Time Flies”, and featured more than 600 hot hair balloons of which 100 were special-shaped ones. Furthermore, pilots from all over the world were invited to fly in this popular international event.

Photo By Andreas DressUnsplash Copyright 2018

Additionally, event organizers were eager to welcome guests back to Balloon Fiesta Park in October last year as the 2020 event was postponed because of COVID-19. The year 2020 was the only year the event was not held in the 50 years since it began in 1972.

The 49th event was celebrated with guests, volunteers, pilots, sponsors, and concessionaires. In addition, everything had to be conducted properly by focusing on making a safe environment so everyone could enjoy 2021’s Albuquerque balloon fiesta.

Mass ascension of this Balloon Fiesta included five signature mass ascension mornings. These were launched on both weekends- October 2, 3, 9, 10, and mid-week- October 6. Furthermore, other popular events included the Balloon Glows, Special Shape Rodeo, America’s Challenge Gas Race, and AfterGlow Fireworks Shows.

The whole and complete schedule for the nine-day Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 was released on the website before the event. Saturday- October 2, 2021- was the first day of the event and started with the Dawn Patrol Show, which launched before sunrise. Subsequently, more than six hundred hot air balloons were launched at dawn.

Along with that, the Balloon pilots ascended in various waves to search for the famous Albuquerque Box, which is a pattern unique to Balloon Fiesta Park that provides pilots the chance to take off and land at the same location. Two days later on October 4, 2021 – Monday – the Balloon Fiesta flying competition was conducted and continued all week.

Further, on Tuesday – October 6, 2021 – the Flight of the Nations got the mid-week mass ascension started and displayed all countries at the event. Additionally, along with the flying events, special shape balloons were featured on Thursday and Friday launched each morning, and glowed in the evening.

Balloon Glow 2011
Photo By Terri HickoxFlickr Copyright 2011

Overall, the Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 had five balloons glows last year. Gondola Club and Chasers’ Club had guest opportunities at this event.

Gondola Club, a private area complete with outdoor and patio seating, had wonderful food and an amazing view making it one of the most picturesque locations at Balloon Fiesta Park.

Chasers’ Club, another private area that included delicious food, local entertainment, and indoor restrooms offered a unique experience for all the people at the event.

Generally, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival of hot air balloons hosted once in October every year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America. Moreover, it is the largest gathering of hot air balloons and balloonists around the world. For the whole nine days, the skies of Albuquerque are painted with colors of mass ascension mornings with 500 balloons lifting off from Balloon Fiesta Park.

Planning and booking need to be done in advance as this event is popular and the world’s largest hot-air balloon festival. Insider tips, information, and guides to the event to find the best places to eat and sleep and things to do during the stay can all be found on the official website.

The Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 took place in the northern part of the city located at 4401 Alameda Boulevard NE in New Mexico. Tickets can be bought at the location for both morning and evening events. However, people who like to plan can order tickets on the official website or over the phone.

Each Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday begins with Dawn Patrol and a mass ascension when all balloons are launched from Balloon Fiesta Park in two waves during the nine-day Albuquerque balloon festival. Specifically, balloons launch from 7:00 am each day and along with the mass ascension mornings, special shape balloons ascend from the field on particular days.

Varied evening events happen all the week, however, many nights feature Balloon Glow, which involved hundreds of balloons on the field staying grounded and simultaneously glowing in the night sky. Also, other events, activities, and concerts took place throughout the week of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021.

There is a short list of items, which include a camera, lawn chair, a blanket, sunglasses, hats, and more people may want to bring to the event. Also, people need to be assertively ready for a sudden change in weather as the event takes place in an open ground. Everyone is permitted to bring water, drinks, snacks into the park and others who did not bring them can also buy from the plenty of food vendors providing options for coffee, snacks, breakfast, dinner, and sweets.

The city of Albuquerque offers various options to reach the Balloon Fiesta Park for Balloon Fiesta Events organized there like specialty tours, public transportation, rideshare, and Park & Ride services. Furthermore, this park has its general parking place on the north side and the south side with a $20 fee for each vehicle parking session.

This city also offers culturally diverse experiences, an outdoor oasis, a culinary scene for any type of foodie, and family-friendly adventures. Moreover, Albuquerque also offers a wide array of other events and entertainment.

Additionally, downloading the innovative, resourceful, and new ‘ABQ Int Balloon Fiesta’ app from the App Store or Google Play makes it easier to navigate the Balloon Fiesta event. For instance, it can select favorite balloons and pilots, features a parked car marker, a bathroom locater, live weather alerts, and even food/vendor information.

Irrespective of being a first-time visitor or a regular, there are official and unofficial guides, resources, and other useful things you can use to know all about the attractions, dining, shopping, events, and more. The Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 was a magical experience for all and took place at varying points throughout the day.

Special Shaped Balloons
Photo By Terri HickoxFlickr Copyright 2013

In 1972, this Balloon Fiesta started with only 13 balloons, which later became a huge international celebration with hot air balloons’ mass ascension involving hundreds of balloons and special shape balloons. In addition, the modern-day Balloon Fiesta takes place every first full week of October in New Mexico.


However, no matter how much fun it was for people, special preparations were made because of COVID-19, which had an enormous impact on families, communities, and businesses all around the world. Nevertheless, this involved large gathering events and pre-planned outdoor parties like Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021.

The Office of the Governor in New Mexico continued to update public health orders for outdoor events like the Balloon Fiesta. Furthermore, their planning and focus played a major role in safely launching the nine-day-long event on October 2, 2021. Also, on the open field, all guests had the opportunity to regulate the standing and sitting proximity with other guests.

Concurrently, guests were updated on mask mandates, social distancing, and other items identified in public health orders on the official website. Nonetheless, people who did not or could not attend the event had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 from afar. Balloon Fiesta Live!, a hosted live stream of the event, was broadcasted over the internet, and the news was updated on social media pages like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The sale of tickets for the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 started on July 2, 2021. Starting from that date, tickets were available for purchase through the Balloon Fiesta website, and reservations for hospitality programs like Chasers’ Club and Gondola Club were also available. Check out the purchase tickets section for more details.

General Admission
  • Single-Session For Adults that are 13 years & older – $15
  • Children 12 & Younger – Free
Park & Ride (includes general admission)
  • Adult-Advanced Purchase – $22
  • Adult-Day of Purchase – $25
  • Senior-Advanced Purchase – $20
  • Senior-Day of Purchase – $25
  • Child-Advanced Purchase – $10
  • Child-Day of Purchase – $12
  • Single Session – $20
Chasers’ Club
  • Individual (includes Park admission) – $60
  • Group Rate for 14 or more people – $40
Gondola Club
  • Adult (includes admission and parking) – $125
  • Child (4-12 years) – $65
  • Group-Adult (14+ people, 1 vehicle) – $105
  • Group-Child – $55
Additional Hospitality Offerings
  • Concierge Program (per session) – $350
  • Glamping (per night, three-night minimum) – $500

The Balloon Fiesta 2019 generated $186.82 million for the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico’s economies.

Generally, New Mexico is known for a slower pace welcoming and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 complemented that atmosphere and provided a comfortable pace for everyone to enjoy the event. Furthermore, during the sessions, everyone could freely explore the 365 acre Balloon Fiesta Park however they wanted or simply stay in one place with their friends and family.

Balloon Fiesta is an unassuming and pleasant place to kick back, relax and just look up at the sky. In addition, the month of October is a great time to visit Albuquerque city because of the cool mornings, which provides the perfect scene for watching hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky. When the sun rises, so does the temperature, but, guests should always be prepared for unexpected weather changes.

A committed, longstanding board of directors, staff, and many volunteers helped to run the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 successfully. Each year this event is organized for making memories and bringing everyone together. The balloon Fiesta team and its surrounding community make it such that the experience is as best as it can be.

Guests are offered an accommodating environment and people can roam and see every inch of the Balloon Fiesta Ballpark throughout the nine-day event. One of the many great things about the Balloon Fiesta mass ascension mornings is that they start and end early. Consecutively, it gives all guests plenty of time to travel outside the park and make most of their visit.

People can go visit nearby attractions or scenic byways or roam the town to seek their adventures. Moreover, the shuttle service is a great way to avoid traffic, and leaving your vehicle at a convenient location can help you reach or leave Balloon Fiesta Park easily and quickly. Through the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 event duration, Balloon Fiesta team members co-operated with local rideshare companies to operate and process for guests to reach the location.

Guests who ride their bikes to the Balloon Fiesta Park can store them for free at the Bike Valet and ride back home or to the hotel whenever they want. Nevertheless, morning and evening sessions at the event are packed with food, merchandise, entertainment, fireworks, ballooning competitions, and much more. Along with that, a painted cloth hung at the back of the place depicting the Sandia Mountains created a perfect opportunity to explore and escape.

Photo By John FowlerFlickr Copyright 2013

Hundreds of hot air balloons can become one of the new experiences as it is breathtaking to watch so many colored balloons and special shape balloons floating through the sky both day and night. Pilots from almost every US state and around the globe attended the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 and the cultural flair was unmistakable.

Visitors had a good chance to watch woodcarvers create masterpieces, attend America’s Challenge Gas Race inflation, and cheer on pilots during air competitions. Later, they enjoyed a local creation or a fair favorite on Balloon Fiesta’s Main Street, which had many options to choose from. Along with that, there were famous breakfast burritos that featured authentic New Mexican red and green chile as they are always in abundance.

In 2000, a mass ascension comprising of 1019 hot air balloons occurred and the event’s leadership agreed that the city of Albuquerque should be the home for such a world record so they started the process of documenting the launches. A new world record was set in 2010 with 329 hot air balloons no matter how brutal the process. Also, they did it again a year later in 2011 with 345 hot air balloons.

But, another event that occurs every other year in France set the world record with more than four hundred hot air balloons. So, Balloon Fiesta decided that they had to focus their efforts on their processes and making their event the best balloon event in the world. However, they were unable to pursue the record as the 2020 event, which was the initially planned 49th event was postponed because of COVID.

Nonetheless, the committee thought of ways to promote the event, the city of Albuquerque, and the state of New Mexico. So, they started going through the paperwork to see if they could set the world record based solely on the event’s documentation. Also, a member of Balloon Fiesta – Tom Garrity – reached out to the Guinness World Record editors and informed them that Balloon Fiesta was interested in the record.

The staff started to coordinate on the task of gathering information to properly document the record. Moreover, the criteria for establishing the record was somewhat different than it was when the world record was set in previous years. In 2019, the 48th Balloon Fiesta had registered 588 hot air balloons representing seventeen countries.

On October 6, 2019, the regular morning mass ascension involved the launching of 524 hot air balloons from the Balloon Fiesta Park in New Mexico. Furthermore, the launch was documented with photos and videos of the launch, which provided a listing of unique banner numbers issued by the event. Later, the launches were confirmed in two ways-

  • Launch Directors that were assigned to specific quadrants on Balloon Fiesta Park to collect a launch slip from each pilot before they leave the ground.
  • PCWise, a Balloon Fiesta contractor, who oversaw refueling of hot air balloon propane tanks before and after the flight verified the launch numbers.

It was an honor for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to receive a great title to add to their already spectacular event. Overall, the event was great even though one of the days had some phenomenal clouds that came in and some fog that is unusual for the city of Albuquerque.

Additionally, there was quite a contrast between the Saturday and Sunday flights and so a lot of balloons were on the ground on Saturday. But, they did get to fly the next day and Guinness was able to recognize that.

All of this just proved it more than the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is a premier and world-class event for everyone to attend. The city’s Mayor even applauded the record making it another landmark accomplishment for the world’s greatest balloon fiesta that the city is grateful to have every year. The theme for the 2019 or 48th event was “Picture Perfect” making it a site for a lot of photos.

Coming back to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021, the event’s opening ceremony involved several elements that concluded with an aerial salute to their first responders and healthcare workers, which kept the essential services flowing during the pandemic. Balloon Fiesta’s Opening Ceremonies kicked off with the National Anthem, sung by Bobby Garcia, First Responder, at 6:55 a.m. on the Main Street Stage.

Chile Flight

The national anthem was sung along with the Balloon of the Day launch to the skies and at the end of the anthem, more than two hundred hot air balloon burners were fired in unison using a unified candlelight burn.

Further, Albuquerque’s own Chile Flight flew in formation, dropping smoke, over Balloon Fiesta. Later, the Chile Flight circled back over the field creating a smoke-shaped heart symbol in honor of all first responders and medical workers.

For over eight years, Chile Flight has been flying together and safely completed almost 500 formation flights together. Generally, they practice once per week to maintain their high level of skill and safety. Moreover, they have over 350 years of aviation experience with Chilean flight pilots. Also, the Chile Flight is comprised of 4 retired military officers, a retired chemical engineer, an aviation software engineer, a collegiate level instructor in aviation construction, and former aerobatics competitor, and a physician.

America’s Challenge

Team 4 – Noah Forden and Bert Padelt won the America’s Challenge as announced by the Command Center when they safely landed at the airport in Big Spring, Texas. Moreover, the team sent a photo of themselves with their flaccid balloon since hot air balloons lose hydrogen throughout the flight. Their strategy involved going to high altitudes early, grabbing the lead, and riding relatively higher winds to the east and south.

Throughout the race, they led by a significant margin and traveled about 365 miles or 573 kilometers. Typically, that is a short distance for the challenge, but a great display accounting for the extremely light winds dominating the weather pattern.

Forden is an experienced aviator from Rhode Island and Padelt is a master balloon builder revered in gas balloon cycles. Both of them showed a spectacular flight and sent a message to their competitors to come to try and catch them.

Team 1- Barbara Fricke and Peter Cuneo are natives of the city and four-time America’s Challenge winners who spent more than a full day in Northern New Mexico wallowing in light winds. In addition, their photo was taken by their crew east of Amarillo, Texas with their balloon Foxtrot Charlie.

Barbara and Peter ascended into the stronger track in the evening and overnight overtook Team 2- Mark Sullivan and Cheri White – to move into second in the race. Only if they had the ballast and gas to fly 50 miles more, they could have captured the lead. This could have been accomplished through a time-honored gas ballooning strategy. It involved hanging back in the last place until the competition lands, then swooshing in at the end to win.

Regardless of who wound up winning, that was a great result for either team. The Albuquerque Balloon Festival 2021 released the numbers for this year’s event. Over the nine days, an estimated 783,866 visitors were reported to have attended the Balloon Fiesta. However, it was a 9.5% drop in the number of visitors from 866,414 visitors in 2019.

Last year’s Balloon Fiesta also featured 543 registered hot air balloons– including 84 registered special shape balloons– and 648 registered pilots from seven different countries– Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, France, the US, and the Netherlands.

Aerial Shot
Photo By Enlightening_ImagesPixabay Copyright 2020

In short, the 2019 Balloon Festival featured 588 hot air balloons including 104 special shaped ones and pilots from seventeen different countries. Overall, the record was set in 2015 when 955,703 visitors came to attend the event.

Year – Attendance
2021 - 783,866

2019 - 866,414

2018 - 886,037

2017 - 887,970

2016 - 839,309

2015 - 955,703

2014 - 848,393

2013 - 857,000

2012 - 714,297

2011 - 737,466

Hot Air Balloons - Albuquerque
Photo By dannfishPixabay Copyright 2019

In conclusion, the Albuquerque balloon festival 2021 was organized successfully to make it an awesome and memorable event for everyone who was there physically or watching it online.

You can check out last year’s photos on the following official website – Balloon Fiesta.

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