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Balloon Fiesta FAQs

How does a balloon fly?
A hot-air balloon uses a gas burner to heat the air inside the envelope to about 212°F. Because the hot air inside is less dense than the cool air outside, the balloon rises as the burner heats the air. When the air is let out of the envelope through a vent, the balloon cools down and descends.

Hot-air balloons have no steering mechanism. They go where the wind takes them.

What is the Box? How does it work?

The box is a set of predictable wind patterns. Morning surface winds generally come from the north, and winds come from the south at higher elevations. Therefore, balloons can head south at low elevations, rise to higher elevations and catch the southerly winds, which take them back to where they started. When the box occurs over the Balloon Fiesta field, the balloons will leave the field and then return at higher elevations — making for a spectacular sight.

How old is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? And how did it start?

The fiesta started April 8, 1972, with hardly more than a dozen balloons taking off from the Coronado mall parking lot as part of a promotional event for KKOB radio. The largest gathering of hot-air balloons at the time happened in England, with 19 balloons regularly participating, so event organizers invited 21 to the mall parking lot to try to break the record. However, bad weather prevented some of the pilots from taking off.

The next year, Albuquerque hosted the World Hot Air Balloon Championships and forever cemented itself as an international hot-air balloon destination. The fiesta is now the largest gathering of hot-air balloons worldwide.

Who are the Zebras?

Zebras are launch directors, which means they coordinate which balloons can launch at certain times to maintain safety on the field. Of course, hot-air balloon pilots cannot see balloons directly above them, so the “zebras” are crucial in helping get the hundreds of balloons into the air safely. They’re called zebras because of their black-and-white striped outfits.

How many balloons can take off at once?

About 200 balloons can leave the launch site every 30 minutes.

How many balloons and balloonists are taking part in the fiesta?

559 balloons are registered for this year’s event.

How many special-shapes balloons are there?

At least 100 special shapes will fly at the fiesta this year.

What time should I be there?

Because crowds can run into the tens of thousands, arriving sooner is better. For weekend events, plan to arrive at the park by 5:30 a.m. During evening events, try to be at the park by 4 p.m. Gates open at 4:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

What should I wear? What should I take?

Morning temperatures sometimes sink to 40°F, warming up to about 70°F later in the day. Take a jacket and dress in layers, and wear comfortable walking shoes. It’s also recommended to take sunscreen and eye protection. When attending evening events, take a flashlight to help you find your vehicle afterward.

How do I get there?

The field is in North Albuquerque, west of Interstate 25. To get there, take I-25 to Alameda Boulevard. Head west on Alameda, then right on Balloon Fiesta Park Boulevard.

Also, the North Diversion Channel bicycle trail runs just west of the park.

General parking lots on the north and south ends of Balloon Fiesta Park cost $10 each time you park. Also, special buses offer Park & Ride from locations scattered throughout Albuquerque. You can call the fiesta corporate office at (505) 821-1000 or (888) 422-7277 for times and locations.

For more information and maps, go to the “Getting There” section in the ABQ Fiesta app. Park & Ride info is also on the “Getting There” section.

What effect will the I-25/Jefferson rebuild have on traffic during the Fiesta?

Probably not much, according to Phil Gallegos, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

While the flyover bridge from north I-25 to west Paseo del Norte will likely not be finished, neither is it as critical for fiesta traffic, he says.

Jefferson, however, is critical to bus traffic into and away from the fiesta grounds. If not wide open by the time fiesta starts, Jefferson will be “close to wide open,” he says.

Further, traffic at the exit and entrance ramps at I-25 and Alameda, as well as along Alameda itself, will be much as it has been in the past — heavy and slow moving.

Do I need tickets? How much does it cost to get in?

You do need tickets to enter the Fiesta grounds, and general parking also carries a fee.

Advance tickets are available in packets of five for $35, plus a $3 service fee. General admission the day of the event is $8. Parking is $10 per car. Guests can also buy an all-event parking pass for $50.

Are pets allowed?

Non-service animals are not allowed at the Fiesta.

When are the fireworks?

The AfterGlow Fireworks Shows, sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal and Comcast Spotlight, are on Saturday, Oct. 5; Sunday, Oct. 6; Thursday, Oct. 10; Friday, Oct. 11; and Saturday, Oct. 12. They start at 8 p.m. Make sure to take a lawn chair or blankets so you can enjoy the show.

How do I enter the Journal photo contest?

Go to the Photo tab of the ABQ Fiesta app, and click on the “Photo Contest Entry Form.” You can also submit your photo online at www.abqjournal.com/balloons. A winning photo will be selected every day and printed in the newspaper.

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