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Prized pins

Festive-hat-wearing-fiesta-goers display their collection of pins at a mass ascension of the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Enthusiasts of enamel pins descend on Balloon Fiesta Park each year to grow their collections, seek out limited edition designs and swap stories.

Some choose to display their pins on hats and jackets, while other collectors keep their prized possessions behind glass and hung on walls.

The coveted pins range from simple to standout statements and are designed to commemorate the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and its many events. Some of the most popular designs pay homage to the many different special shapes balloons: This year there are 87 new shapes pins.

Favorites include the blue Smurf pins, which were almost sold out Monday, and Allycorn, an image of the new purple unicorn balloon.

“I showed that one to my granddaughter and she goes, ‘aah,’ ” Diane Karlson said. She owns the Plano Pin Co., which produces all the official pins for the Balloon Fiesta.

The first official fiesta pin was created in 1972, and depicts a simple, singular, red, white and blue American flag-themed hot air balloon. Over the years the designs have become more elaborate and flashy.

This year, Plano Pins debuted an “El Camino Breaking Bad” pin in several colors, which received lots of laughs and oohs and aahs.

“Special shapes are the exclusives,” Karlson said, because people will buy them and bring them home as souvenirs.

The Plano tent on the north end of the field draws avid collectors, novice enthusiasts and curious eyes pulled in by the colorful and shiny emblems decorating several tables and filling multiple bins.

Mark Garcia, who spent some time digging through the clearance pin bins this week, has been collecting the colorful metal designs for so long he uses his children’s ages to keep track.

When he started, he was “pushing a stroller with one (kid) and the other was in my wife’s belly,” he said. “They think I’m nuts.”

Almost 40 years later, he has about 150 pounds of pins at home. Some are on display, but he said he has run out of room and is now selling some on eBay.

“It’s a habit; once you start, it’s over,” Garcia said.

The Plano Pin tent and online store aren’t the only places to snag a sought after design, and he knows it.

When he wanders the field with his grandkids looking to trade pins with pilots, Garcia said he gets to know people from different countries and shares stories with them.

Each year, he looks for special shapes pins, keeping an eye out for any honoring the Creamland Cow balloon because that is his wife’s favorite.from work so he can spend day and night on the hunt for more pins. He said he rakes in about 2,000 new ones each year.

hundreds of balloons launch from the field, and she said she’s been collecting corresponding pins since 2003.

Wright said she has about 300 balloon pins, which fill an entire collectors book.

husband, Stephen Wright, said the pins make great souvenirs because they are small and interesting.

“You go back home and you tell people how cool the balloons are … and people go, ‘Aah, I gotta have one of these,’

“They’re all favorites,” Stephen Wright said, “that’s why you pick them.”

The next pin trading event is Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Group Tour Tent.Even small scale collectors visit the Plano tent and weekend pin trades. Yvette Wright came from Utah to see the “At first I could get three years on a page, of just the main balloons,” she said. “Then I started collecting the other ones as well and so now we can only get two years on a page.”

Her

A.M.

6:00: Dawn Patrol

7:00: Special Shape Rodeo

8:00: Competition Balloon Flying

8:30-noon: AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition

P.M.

1:00-5:00: AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition & Auction

5:00: Team Fastrax Sky Divers

6:00: Special Shape Glowdeo

7:30: Team Fastrax Sky Divers

8:00: AfterGlow Fireworks Show

FRIDAY, OCT. 11

A.M.

6:00: Dawn Patrol

7:00: Special Shape Rodeo

8:00: Competition Balloon Flying

8:00-noon: AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition

P.M.

1:00-5:00: AIBF Chainsaw Carving Exhibition & Auction

5:00: Team Fastrax Sky Divers

6:00: Special Shape Glowdeo

7:30: Team Fastrax Sky Divers

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