X marks the spot - for hot air balloons - Albuquerque Journal

X marks the spot – for hot air balloons

An X Marks the Spot display was laid out at the Wednesday press conference announcing that the popular program is back for the upcoming Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Oct. 2-10. The festival was delayed in 2020 by the COVID pandemic. (Garrison Wells/For the Journal)

In the middle of this pandemic gloom, a much-needed splash of good news: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s “X Marks the Spot” is coming back.

It may even be landing on your property. That’s up to you.

Sponsored by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Contractors of New Mexico, “X Marks the Spot” is designed to get residents involved with the festival by placing large Xs on or near their property that can be spotted by balloonists as they soar over Albuquerque.

Those Xs are a big deal, because they tell balloonists this is a place they can land their craft.

“Whenever a balloon pilot is flying all around the world, they see typically a white sheet or something like that, it’s always an international symbol of a welcome sign,” said Sam Parks, director of operations for the fiesta and a balloon pilot. “It indicates a safe place for a balloonist to land spread throughout the metro area.”

Now in its third year, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho residents who put out the X can win one of nine large gift baskets, gifts and certificates from local businesses.

Here is how the program works:

• Pilots will carry cards with them, and upon landing will gather information from the participating resident. If the resident is not available, the pilot will gather information about the property. Once flights conclude each day, pilots will turn in their cards and balloon fiesta officials will draw a winner for that day.

• One winner will be recognized as “landowner of the day” at the end of each day’s flying events. That landowner, or X owner, will be notified that they will receive a prize at the end of the week.

• There will also be a Community Service award winner drawn at the end of balloon fiesta. This winner will be chosen from the Landowner Relations committee as exemplary patron, committed to furthering community involvement and safety. All prizes are sponsored by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce’s members and partners and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

While 400 Xs will be pieced together by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce – and made available without charge – landowners can also make their own Xs with white sheets.

There’s no limit to the size of homemade Xs, but all road safety practices are to be followed and Xs are not allowed on roads or byways.

The chamber’s Xs will be available at Signature Sweets & Flowers, 3322 Coors NW; the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce headquarters at 1309 4th SW, and The PC Place II at 9324 Menaul NE.

The return of the popular program, now in its third year, signals that the balloon festival – and its huge economic impact – is really on its way back.

“The 49th International Balloon Fiesta is going to come off this year and we are very happy about that,” said Jim Garcia, board member for the fiesta, at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s kind of a bienvenidos to Albuquerque.”

The 2020 festival was delayed by the state’s COVID 19 outbreak. It’s scheduled for Oct. 2-10 this year.

To register for the event or donate products or services, visit https://www.ahcnm.org/x-marks-the-spot-2021.html. For more information, call the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce at 505-842-9003.

 


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