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Permanent Balloon Fiesta exhibit planned

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Laurie Magovern, executive director of the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum Foundation, announces the kickoff of a campaign to raise funds for a permanent exhibit celebrating the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis, Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is a “cultural institution that tells the story of the art, science, history and culture of ballooning” – and it sits in the “hot air ballooning capital of the world,” no less.

So it may come as a surprise that what it doesn’t have is a permanent exhibit telling the story of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held annually just outside its doors.

That is expected to change, and just in time for the fiesta’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

“We plan to preserve the history and legacy of the Balloon Fiesta by creating a world class exhibit that inspires and celebrates the awe, joy and prestige of this international event,” said Balloon Museum manager Nan Masland.

The Balloon Museum Foundation, the nonprofit, fundraising arm for the museum, on Thursday kicked off a public campaign to raise money to assemble such a permanent exhibit.

The campaign has been named “Passages: 50 Fiestas,” and the foundation began preparing for the exhibit 18 months ago, said Laurie Magovern, executive director of the Balloon Museum Foundation. The foundation, she said, along with contributions from the state and city, has already raised $400,000.

“We’re still in the design phase of the exhibit so we’re not sure of the total cost yet, but we are also raising funds for the museum’s education programs and the upkeep of the exhibit,” Magovern said.

The exhibit will use a digital timeline, artifacts, virtual reality experiences, photographs and video to chronicle the history of the fiesta, as well as details about flight and aviation, tourism and economics. It will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put on the world’s largest hot air balloon festival, she said.

Many of the pieces that will be in the permanent exhibit are already on hand and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse that houses a large variety of balloon artifacts. There are also individual pieces related to the fiesta that are on display in the museum and are expected to be included, she said.

“With a permanent exhibit we will have to adjust the museum’s gallery space,” but there are no plans to enlarge the building.

Two-year sponsorship packages ranging from $2,000 to $25,000 a year are available and detailed on the foundation’s website: balloon-museum-foundation.sponseasy.com/new-balloon-fiesta-exhibition.

Smaller individual donations can also be made to the museum’s “$50.50 Campaign,” a nod to the fiesta’s 50th year anniversary.

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