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City mulls small launches as Balloon Fiesta alternative

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Just because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been called off for this year doesn’t mean there won’t be any balloons sailing over the city.

Mayor Tim Keller said during his Thursday COVID-19 update news conference that the city was working on alternatives.

“We can certainly expect balloons in the sky in October,” he said.

One possibility was expansion of the Albuquerque Aloft program, in which pilots inflate and often launch from a limited number of schoolyards early on the Friday before the fiesta starts. This year, he said, many more schools would be included and it could take place over several days or a week.

Other alternatives being looked at are drive-by balloon glow events and smaller launches from city parks and golf courses, where people can watch from their vehicles.

“Primarily, the pilots are up for it, and that’s the first piece, and we’re in discussion with them and how the city might be able to support them while keeping folks healthy,” Keller said.

That support would include traffic control and parking, he said.

These events “are not going to be as big or economically fruitful” as the Balloon Fiesta, which he said is “the biggest boost we have for our economy, literally, in the entire state of New Mexico,” and the “single biggest economic driver.”

Keller also said the city was looking at alternatives for the canceled annual Independence Day Freedom Fourth fireworks display, hoping to offer “smaller ways to have large aerial displays.”

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