ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The 48th Balloon Fiesta said its annual goodbye to Albuquerque in spectacular style Sunday morning.
Wind at the field was light, and officials raised the green flag for this year’s Farewell Mass Ascension shortly after the 6 a.m. pilot’s briefing, just as the glowing shapes of Dawn Patrol balloons lifted into the dark morning sky.
Warmer conditions meant fewer heavy coats and blankets as spectators flooded Balloon Fiesta Park to get their last view of Albuquerque’s most colorful event.
Temperatures at the field were near 45 degrees Fahrenheit as the sun rose above the Sandia Mountains, more than 10 degrees warmer than the last few mornings, according to Balloon Fiesta weather reports.
Sunday was the seventh morning out of nine in which balloons were cleared for take off in a mass ascension during this year’s fiesta. Launches on opening day and Thursday were canceled due to wind.
During a mass ascension, pilots lift off in waves, filling the Albuquerque sky with hundreds of brightly-colored balloons.
Sunday’s balloons floated southward in a clear-blue sky toward the heart of the city, creating a stunning farewell view for onlookers on and off the field.
Slide show: Balloon Fiesta through the years: Pictures from 1972-1991
Stories from this year’s Balloon Fiesta