Return of the Balloon Fiesta

Pictures and Story by

Salvador Zambrano

Staff Reporter/Graphic Designer

2020 was the year COVID-19 began. During the year lots of events were canceled to protect people from outbreaks of the virus. One event affected was The famous Balloon Fiesta. After taking the year off Balloon Fiesta made it’s return for the 2021 season.

Balloon fiesta park was filled with many spectators waiting to see the many balloons take off into the sky. This year 866,414 guests made their way to the park during the 9 day period.

The Balloon fiesta picked up right where it left off with a total of 588 balloons making an appearance this year. 671 pilots also made the trip from around the world for this years event. The Albuquerque community seemed full of life after the return of the Balloon Fiesta.

A Sky High Wedding

Story and Media by

Mark Graven

Staff Reporter

Leslie Bordeau, a CNM student in 2014-2015, embarked on marriage in spectacular fashion, getting married to his sweetheart, Lorisa Silva.
The couple, both from Albuquerque, launched their marriage with a party of 10, taking off from the Cottonwood Mall parking lot.
Silva said that a friend suggested a balloon-based wedding to her about a month ago.
“I just thought that was a good idea,” said Silva.
So here they were, and there they went–up, up, and away, in a party that included a minister, a photographer, and various family and friends.
Their balloon was one of 11 Rainbow Ryder balloons taking off from the Cottonwood Mall.  
Ordinarily, Rainbow Ryders would be participating in the Balloon Fiesta, which was canceled this year, due to Covid. 

But Rainbow Ryders and others were keeping the fires burning for ballooning, through private enterprise this year.  Rainbow’s intent is to keep launching flights daily, weather permitting, its representatives said.
Albuquerque officials have encouraged the private party ballooning, labeling it Balloon Siesta.  
There were perhaps 50 balloons dotting the skies over Albuquerque.  During Balloon Fiesta, more than 500 are typically launched.

On to The Next, How Time Flies

By Daniel Johnson, Editor In Chief

2019 had over 550 balloons, 886,307 attendees, and 650 pilots from across the globe.

It was another great year for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta but it is officially time to move on to the next.

Scheduled to take place from October 3rd to the 11th in 2020 the theme for the upcoming years Fiesta is Timeflies.

Let’s take this opportunity to look back at some of the fun from 2019 as we look forward to Balloon Fiesta 2020.

Balloon Fiesta 2018 Beckons

By Staci Bostic-Baros, staff reporter

IMG_1307Photo by Hailey Tolleson
Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque was ready this week and quietly anticipating opening festivities Oct. 6.

Fall is officially upon us. For CNM students and staff, that means Balloon Fiesta is right around the corner. With morning and evening mass ascensions and special shapes glows, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta lasts nine days this year. It starts this Saturday, Oct. 6, with the last session on Sunday, Oct. 14.

Park & Ride tickets are a way to save some money and avoid the headache of Balloon Fiesta traffic. At $12 in advance, Park & Ride covers admission and transportation to and from Balloon Fiesta Park, saving $13 over driving yourself. 

This year features a laser light show during the morning glow each morning at 6:30 a.m., followed by the iconic mass ascensions at 7:00 a.m. The mass ascension is a massive launch of all the participating balloons in the morning sessions and is a spectacle of colors, sights and sounds. Special shapes balloon events are set up this year in both morning and evening sessions on Thursday, Oct. 11, and Friday, Oct. 12. Kid’s Day is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 11, with special shapes balloons and performances by Fastrax Sky Divers during both sessions.

Balloon glows were first invented in Albuquerque in 1979, after local hot air balloonists inflated their balloons on Christmas Eve as a thank-you to residents. Now known as the Twilight Twinkle Glow, the Night Magic Glow and the Special Shapes Glowdeo, they offer visitors the magical experience of hot air balloons brilliantly lit from within, glowing brightly in the desert night sky. Balloon Glow evenings, followed by huge fireworks displays, are historically among the fiesta’s most popular events. Food, beverages and kid-friendly activities are planned. Music also is scheduled on many evenings, and a Music Fiesta on Saturday, Oct. 13. You can find event schedules, ticket information and more at See you there!

Balloon Fiesta 2017

Photo Essay by Senior Reporter: Hilary Broman


BF 3
Two balloons fully inflated waiting to take flight.

BF 1
At the 46th Annual Balloon Fiesta the Wells Fargo Balloon ascends into the sunrise with an American flag during the National Anthem.

BF 12
The Master Yoda Balloon, also from Belgium, takes flight.

BF 8
One of the balloons begins to rise as the crowd below cheers.

BF 2
One of the many Rainbow Ryders balloons (the balloons that provide balloon rides to passangers) takes flight during the morning ascension.

BF 7
A spectator takes a photo of the festivities. The International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world.

BF 5
A balloon flies into a clear sky with a view of the moon.

BF 9
The Creamland Cow Balloon, Airabelle, from British Columbia, Canada, looks down over the crowd.

BF 11
A Balloon Fiesta favorite, Darth Vader from Belgium, takes flight.

BF 6
During the Kid’s Day the at Fiesta a child plays under the balloon as it inflates.

BF 10
The Moo Crew helps Airabelle get ready for takeoff.

BF 4
A crew member stands before a balloon spread out on the ground. Balloon crews lay the balloons on the ground, then inflate them while they are still lying down, then they work together to lift the balloon to a vertical position before takeoff.

A College Friendly Guide to the Balloon Fiesta


By Hilary Broman

Senior Staff Reporter


As we approach the halfway point of the fall term here at CNM, Albuquerque is approaching Balloon Fiesta season.

With the 46th annual Balloon Fiesta right around the corner students might be encountering extra stress.

While it is an exciting time it can be difficult to balance school, work, and family while trying to plan a trip to this year’s Balloon Fiesta.

To help ease the stress CNM Chronicle’s senior staff reporter, Hilary Broman, has put together an easy to read, stress free list of details about this year’s fiesta.

Find a headline that interests you and get all the details you need there.

The theme this year is Inflate your Imagination.

So, grab your favorite hoodie, a delicious cup of coffee, and Inflate your Imagination.


If you’re a Star Wars Fan:

Help welcome back the popular Darth Vader and Yoda balloons at this free, kid friendly event.

“Visitors will be able to encounter Darth and Yoda up close and they will also be able to meet the pilots and crew members,” according to the event Facebook page.

When: Friday, October 6th at 8:30am-11:00om

Where: Balloon Fiesta Museum

For more information, click here.


If you have kids:

The entire balloon fiesta is kid friendly but, Thursday, October 12th is Kid Day, presented by KOB-TV.

The morning will start off with a laser light show at 5:45 am.

Followed by dawn patrol at 6:00am and then a Special Shape rodeo at 7:00 am.

In the evening a Special Shape Glowdeo is scheduled at 6:00pm, followed by a laser light show at 7:45pm, then a firework show at 8:00pm.

*Kids 12 and under are free every day of the fiesta.


If you love the special shapes:

The special shape balloons are included in all of the mass ascension events, but if you are particularly fond of the special shape balloons try attending the Special Shape Rodeo and Glowdeo.

The Special Shape Rodeo is scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 12th and Friday, October 13th.

During this event, only the special shape balloons take the field and take flight.

On the evening of the 12th and 13th there will be a Special Shape Glowdeo where the special shape balloons take the field but do not take flight. Instead, they ignite the gas which creates a glowing effect across the field.

In addition to all of the old favorites, 17 new shapes will be joining the special shapes family.

Below are the new special shape balloons:


Balloon 1


Click here to see a directory of all the special shape balloons participating in this year’s event.


If you want to conquer your fear of heights:

If you want to catch a ride on a balloon, contact Rainbow Ryders Inc at:

Toll free: 1-800-725-2477

Phone: 505-823-1111


For more information, click here.


If you’re not a morning person:

If the 4:00am morning rush and the morning cold isn’t worth it to you, don’t worry. There are plenty of mid-day and evening events.

On Saturday, October 14th, a music fiesta is scheduled to take place from 1:00pm-5:00pm.

Artists include; The Bus Tapes, Phil Vassar, and Billy Currington.

Admission to the music fiesta is not included in the general admission price.

Click here for ticket information.

There is also an AIBF Chainsaw Carving Invitational that is scheduled to take place on many days throughout the fiesta.

Click here to see when these events are scheduled.

There are many evening events scheduled throughout the fiesta including, laser light shows, balloon glows, and firework shows.

Click here to see when these events are scheduled.


If you’re a photographer:

The Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world, according to Balloon Fiesta officials.

Each year a photo contest is held for the best photos taken throughout the fiesta.

This year there are 5 categories;

  • Kids at Balloon Fiesta Photo Entry
  • Dawn Patrol/Balloon Glow Photo Entry
  • Mass Ascension Photo Entry
  • Special Shape Rodeo Photo Entry
  • AfterGlow Fireworks Photo Entry

There will be a grand prize winner and a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner in each category.

Each submission costs $5.

To enter the contest or find out more, click here.



Don’t let parking stress you out. There are many options for drivers.


Park and Ride: There are many park and ride locations where you can pay for parking transportation, and admission into the balloon fiesta park all in one.

The park and ride locations include;

  • Cottonwood Mall
  • Intel
  • Coronado Center
  • Hoffmantown Church
  • Cliff’s Amusement Park

Click here for pricing information and to purchase tickets.


Parking on location:

If you decide to park on location make sure to leave extra early.

No matter what part of town you are coming from expect to be in traffic for an hour or more.

Be prepared to pay $15 cash per car.


Bike parking:

Beat the traffic when you ride your bike!

“Bike Valet is provided as a free service to promote bicycling to the Balloon Fiesta,” according to the balloon fiesta website.

Bike valet hours of operation:

  • Morning Sessions 5:30AM to 10:30AM
  • Evening Sessions 5:00PM to 9:00PM

For more information about the bike valet service click here.


If you’ve never been:

If you are from out of state or never had the chance to attend the event her are some tips that will make your first Balloon Fiesta experience enjoyable.

  • Dress warm, and in layers.
    • The morning is usually very cold but it gets warmer as the sun comes up. You may want to peel some of those layers.
  • Bring a blanket.
    • The event takes place on a grass lot. Blankets come in handy when you want to relax. You can stretch out and enjoy the fiesta from almost anywhere in the field.
  • Be prepared for a crowd.
    • The first balloon fiesta experience can be a bit overwhelming. If you are someone who doesn’t like crowds be prepared for a loud and chaotic space.
  • Use the restroom before you leave home
    • There are Porta-Potties are the balloon fiesta park but the line is always very long.
  • Buy all of your tickets in advance.
    • The more prepared you are they less hectic the experience will be. Buying admission tickets, park and ride tickets, and parking tickets in advance can help reduce stress.
  • Take a camera
    • The balloon fiesta is the most photographed event in the world. You’ll want to capture it.
  • Enjoy it
    • The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest in the world. There is nothing else like it, so take in as much as you can and enjoy it!

*All events are weather permitting


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos by Hilary Broman. 


CNM Students Share Their Favorite Balloon Fiesta Experiences

Story and Photos by Hilary Broman

Staff Reporter

Albuquerque is home to the largest ballooning event in the world and the most photographed event on earth according the Balloon Fiesta media officials.

This week the 45th annual Balloon Fiesta came to a close.

The balloon fiesta is a local tradition according to Emilio Martinez, a CNM nursing major.

Some local CNM students, balloon crew workers, and spectators shared their favorite parts of the Balloon Fiesta.

Hundreds of balloons rise with the sun during the mass ascension event.

“Nothing beats getting up super early, hitting Starbucks before the sun comes up and witnessing hundreds of balloons taking to the skies,” Cody Johnson, a CNM business and psychology major said.

The sound of the flames inflating the balloons is one Johnson’s, favorite parts of the Balloon Fiesta, he said.

Father, Carlos and son, Jayden, take a selfie together as the hot air balloons inflate behind them.

Ricardo Baca, a recent CNM Aviation Maintenance graduate, recalls his first balloon fiesta experience, “I was 6 years old. I saw the sonic hedgehog and I told my mom; ‘Damn, he’s humongous, I bet I could beat the game with that sonic.’ I got in trouble and I only got my hot chocolate because it was cold. It was still a fun day though.”

Wendy Lyons captures an image of a hot air balloon before it takes flight.

Special shape balloon takes flight over the balloon fiesta crowd.

A balloon from Taiwan ignites and warms the crowd.

“My favorite is the balloon glow,” Baca said. “I enjoy watching all of the shapes and colors while having a cold beer.”

This special shape balloon comes from Belgium.

Francine Stewart, who has been on the Belgium bear balloon crew since 2001 said, “The best part about crewing is being able to meet so many new people from all around the world. Every day is an adventure. My balloon crew has become more than friends to me, they are family!”

Popular special shape Yoda balloon looks down at the crowd that surrounds him.

The many colors of the hot air balloons represent this year’s Desert Kaleidoscope theme.

The Acoma Rain dancer’s performance drew a large crowd on Sunday, October 2nd during the mass ascension event.

A group of friends gather to take a picture during the second to last mass ascension at the 2016 balloon fiesta.

“My favorite part of the balloon fiesta would have to be walking around eating a Blake’s burrito with hot chocolate and enjoying the company I’m with,” Martinez said. For anyone who has not been to the balloon fiesta Martinez recommends to dress warm, bring friends and family and get a breakfast burrito.

A spectator watches as the first balloon stands up on the second to last day of the 2016 balloon fiesta after waiting for over an hour for the whether to become safe for the balloons to go up.

The first balloon takes flight during the mass ascension on Saturday, October 8th.






What’s New This Year at the Balloon Fiesta

Story and Photos by Hilary Broman

Staff Reporter

The 45th annual Balloon Fiesta is underway and this year there are some new events taking place, according to Balloon Fiesta media officials.

This year’s theme is Desert Kaleidoscope, which describes Albuquerque’s perfect hot air ballooning climate.

The theme was chosen by Charles Goodman from Florida who won the 45th Balloon Fiesta theme contest.

Seventeen new special shape balloons are scheduled to make their debut at this year’s Fiesta.

Some of the new shapes scheduled to appear include: The Flying Gator from Brazil, the Cathedral from Dominican Republic, Mr. Clown from Germany and Mr. Fish from the United States.

During the Special Shape Rodeo and Glowdeo the balloons are set to be organized into seven themed categories; Pirate Ship theme, Love theme, Sports theme, Fireman theme, Police theme, Space theme and Ocean theme.

Over 500 balloons fill the Albuquerque sky during the mass ascension.

This is the first year that the U.S. Women’s National Championship is set to take place.

Sixteen women will compete in the championship.

The final flight of the championship is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 5.

This is the Dominican Republic’s first year participating in the Balloon Fiesta and they will be represented in the Flight of Nations on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7a.m.

The 19 other countries that will be represented in the Flight of Nations include: Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and more.

There are multiple ways to travel to the fiesta.

A free valet service will be offered to guests who ride a bike to the park as well as entry through an easy access bike trial and a safe bike storage area that will be staffed by volunteers.

Guests can also purchase a park and ride ticket that will cover the entry fee into the fiesta as well as a ride from a safe parking location to the park.

Park and ride tickets can be purchased online and cost $15 for adults (13-61), $12 for seniors (62 and older), $7 for children (6-12) and are free for children 5 and younger.

Guests can also purchase Rail Runner Express tickets on the weekends which include an all-day Rail Runner Express pass, shuttle to and from the Rail Runner station and the Balloon Fiesta park, and Balloon Fiesta event admission.

Tickets can be purchased on the Rio Metro website.

Tickets are $25 for adults (13-61), $20 for seniors (62 & older), $12 for children (6-12), and children ages five and under are free.

Events that are scheduled during the Balloon Fiesta include; Kids day, laser light shows, chainsaw carving demonstrations, special shape Glowdeo, fireworks shows, and more.

For a complete list of scheduled Balloon Fiesta events click here.

printable story

The Route 66 balloon was one of the first to take off during the mass ascension. Leading the way with an American flag hanging from the basket.