Up, Up and Away: The Greatest Show OFF Earth

How do balloons work?

The basic principal behind hot air ballooning is that hot air rises.

Weather permitting, balloons begin to launch at about 7:15 AM on mass ascension days, led by a balloon flying the American flag to the strains of The Star Spangled Banner. (Credit: balloonfiesta.com)

The envelope is first filled with cold air, and then, when the balloon is almost full to capacity, still lying on its side, the pilot operates the burners. Propane gas burners are used to project heat into the envelope. When the air inside the balloon is warmer than the air outside the envelope, the balloon stands upright. That is why balloonists like to fly so early in the morning. If it were too hot outside, it would be impossible to get the inside of the balloon that much hotter, and it would not have enough lift to get off the ground. The morning air is generally cool and stable, and ideal for flying.

To launch the balloon, the pilot pulls on the burners again, increasing the temperature inside the envelope, and, while it becomes lighter than the air outside, the balloon lifts off the ground.

What about the weather?

Predawn October mornings in Albuquerque are quite crisp, so dress warmly. When you arrive at the Balloon Fiesta Park before dawn, you can expect the temperature to be around 40 degrees. By noon, it is usually about 65–68 degrees. Your best bet is to wear layers of comfortable, casual clothing that you can shed as the day heats up. A wind-resistant jacket over a sweater and long-sleeve shirt is ideal.

For the evening events, you will probably start off warm, but be prepared to throw on a jacket after dark.

RV facilities at Balloon Fiesta Park

Like RVs, new balloons can vary in size and amenities. You can start with a smaller sport model for about $20,000. These balloons typically carry a pilot and one additional person. The larger balloons that can carry two or three passengers in addition to the pilot will range between $20,000 and $30,000 dollars. (Credit: balloonfiesta.com)

Having an RV parked adjacent to the launch site is without question the best way to attend this event. Balloon Fiesta Park is set up to accommodate RV parking during the event.

The four RV parking site types include:

STANDARD sites have NO hookups; 2011 rates are $30/night

PREMIUM sites have 20-amp minimum electrical service and low-pressure water provided; 2011 rates are $65/night

VIP sites are located in a separate area immediately adjacent to the Launch Field with two field entry passes included, and NO hookups; 2011 rates are $85/night

PRESIDENT’S COMPOUND sites are located on the east side of Balloon Fiesta Park on a bluff overlooking the Launch Field with four field entry passes included, and 30-amp minimum electrical service and city water pressure; 2011 rates are $150/night (number of spaces is very limited)

Note: All sites require a three-night minimum stay

Albuquerque Aloft

Many pilots who are registered for Balloon Fiesta sign up to participate in Albuquerque Aloft. Pilots launch their balloons from selected school grounds in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho on the Friday morning before Balloon Fiesta. It is a great way to kick off the beginning of the nine days of Balloon Fiesta.

Fiesta Glow all burns when all the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time are perhaps the most spectacular single moment in all of Balloon Fiesta. (Credit: balloonfiesta.com)

Albuquerque Aloft is the only Balloon Fiesta event in which balloons launch from pre-designated sites outside Balloon Fiesta Park.

Hot-air balloon rides

For many visitors, the ultimate thrill during Fiesta Week is a ride aboard a hot-air balloon. Flights during fiesta events may be booked onsite at the balloon park. The area’s usually good weather and gentle winds make this a popular activity for visitors. Dress in layers and wear gloves.

Exploring Albuquerque

After you’ve been to the Fiesta, it will be easy to see why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The Albuquerque metropolitan area contains approximately one-thirds of New Mexico’s residents, and, as the state’s largest city, it has attractions to please a variety of interests.

Albuquerque was founded in 1706 by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes in honor of the Duke of Alburquerque, Viceroy of New Spain. The first “r” was later dropped, but Albuquerque is still known as “the Duke City.”

Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it’s still current before making your travel plans.

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Part 1: Up, Up and Away: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Web Site: ballonfiesta.com

Phone: (888) 422-7277 or (505) 821-1000

Mailing Address: 4401 Alameda NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113

Worth Pondering…
The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath.

—Alberto Santos-Dumont

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