Balloonists Wrap Up Annual Fiesta


The world’s biggest lighter-than-air flying event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, wrapped up its 33rd annual edition yesterday in Albuquerque, N.M. For nine days, 750 balloons from all over the world participated in activities ranging from mass ascensions with all the balloons taking off together, to special-shape rodeos, to balloon glows with acres of tethered balloons lighting up the immense park after dusk. Wind and rain caused some delays and cancelled a few events. Yesterday morning, a balloon (the head of Smokey The Bear) got tangled in a radio tower, but the occupants were able to climb down (about 700 feet) safely. In the America’s Challenge gas-balloon race, several teams landed early due to thunderstorms, but the first-place team, Richard Abruzzo and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, flew about 600 miles. It’s the fifth first-place finish for Abruzzo. The Albuquerque fiesta claims the reputation as the most photographed event on the planet. For many years Kodak was the title sponsor.