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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Rating: None

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The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta dominates the scene in this high-desert city along the Rio Grande, drawing some 700 balloonists and more than 100,000 spectators. For nine days straight at the beginning of October, the skies of Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA are painted as hundreds of balloons lift off from the Albuquerque?s Balloon Fiesta Park. What began in 1972 with 13 balloons taking off from a shopping mall parking lot has grown into the world's largest hot ? air balloon event and also one of the most widely photographed on the globe.

Albuquerque is the premier ballooning city with its perfect October climate and a phenomenon called the "Albuquerque Box." With a combination of weather patterns and geographic landscape, the box affords balloonists an easy navigation. Hundreds of brightly colored hot-air balloons lift off into the sky just as the first golden rays of sunlight spill over the peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Mariachi musicians greet spectators of all ages, who stare up at the sky as they warm their hands on a cup of hot cocoa or savor a breakfast burrito laced with New Mexico?s signature roasted red or green chiles. Balloon Fiesta Park covers over 200 acres and is filled with balloons and vendors selling everything from traditional New Mexican food to Balloon memorabilia.

The Glowdeo is one of the big events during the Balloon Fiesta. More than 100 balloons are lit in unison and the night sky blazes in a panorama of luminous colored globes. Other balloon events include the Dawn Patrol where balloonists take off before sunrise and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites; Mass Ascensions where all participating balloons launch in two waves, filling the sky with hundreds of balloons at once; and the Special Shapes Rodeo where many non-traditional, uniquely shaped balloons are launched at the same time.

During the city-sponsored Balloon Fiesta, spectators can walk freely through the 78-acre launch field to get up-close views of the balloons. Spectators also can watch flying competitions and fireworks, listen to live music, and book their own balloon rides through a private vendor.
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