Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The coronavirus pandemic has officially claimed another victim.
The 49th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been postponed until Oct. 2-10, 2021, which means the 50th fiesta will now be pushed back to 2022.
The fiesta is the largest balloon rally in the world. In 2019, it drew 588 balloons from across the nation and 17 foreign countries, attracted more than 866,000 visitors during its nine-day run, and generated an estimated economic impact on the Albuquerque area of $186.82 million.
The decision to throw up the red flag was made Monday by the all-volunteer Balloon Fiesta board of directors.
Matt Guthrie, president of the board, said in a statement, “The safety of our pilots, guests, sponsors, staff and volunteers has always been our top concern, and in the wake of COVID-19 and its continued impacts, we must stay dedicated to upholding that commitment.”
People who have already made reservations and paid for tickets or RV spaces will be able to use those next year.
Sam Parks, the fiesta’s director of operations, said the board has been working on contingency plans “ever since the coronavirus entered into our environment here.”
Among the alternatives considered was “Balloon Fiesta Lite” — “where we would just cut back on the number of guests and the number of pilots, all with the idea of keeping people safe with social distancing.”
Also discussed was a Cyber Balloon Fiesta, in which there would be no guests, and the launching of balloons would be broadcast over streaming internet platforms and television.
“As a result of all the unknowns and all the things that are still out of our control, we felt like we needed to make a decision and let people know that their safety and well-being is first and foremost on our minds,” Parks said. “Until we learn more about how to prevent the spread of this virus, we think the best thing to do is not gather in large masses.”
Consequently, the board of directors decided that “the best decision going forward was to postpone the event for a year.”