The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration of a local radio station. Today it is the largest balloon gathering in the world, with over 500 balloons here today.
Part of the reason for the success of the Fiesta is the Albuquerque box. The “box” is a set of predictable wind patterns that can be exploited to navigate the balloons. At low elevations the winds tend to be northerly, but at higher elevations they tend to be southerly. Balloonists use these winds to navigate in a vertical box. They ascend slightly from the launch park, move south, ascend further (over the RV park where we are staying), move north, descend, and repeat the box or land back in the launch park or nearby.
The hot air balloon is the first successful human-carrying flight technology that let man break his tether to the earth. The first manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France.
Today we rose at 4:30 in the morning to watch the first balloons ascend.
The air was crisp and not a cloud in the sky. Called the Dawn Patrol, about 10 balloons go up to track the winds and landing sites.
At sunrise, the flag was raised (no one took a knee) and over 500 balloons took to the skies.
How do they get this many balloons up safely? These guys:
They are called “zebras” because of their stripped shirts. They determine the orderly launch of each balloon.