Turning 50 is a big deal and to commemorate the event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has a lengthy list of items sporting the logo.
“We tried to get the 50 on as many items as we could this year,” said Lisa Mulder, fiesta merchandise manager. “It’s pretty significant that we started with 13 balloons and now we have 650.”
A glimpse around the fiesta store reveals T-shirts, jackets, pins, calendars, drink containers, puzzles, shot glasses and, of course, posters.
“Probably upwards of a 100, which is significantly more than we’ve ever done before,” Mulder said of the merchandise line.
Topping the list are the popular posters, which this year features the finale of a five-year series with virtually the entire cast of Looney Toons characters sharing space with stars Wily Coyote, the Roadrunner and Bugs Bunny.
Designed by artist Daniel Killen through the Chuck Jones Gallery, the finale gathers the whole gang in a grand Balloon Fiesta celebration.
“We were trying to bring everything back full circle,” Mulder said. “If you look at the posters from 1972, there are a couple of bright versions. One with the Roadrunner and one with Wily Coyote, of course. So we thought why not do this sort of celebration for the 50th and bring all the characters back into play and do something fun and colorful?”
And that’s pretty symbolic of the fiesta itself, which includes its own colorful cast of characters.
“Very much so,” she said. “We have all different types of people and characters that come.”
The signed posters, which will be only available on the fiesta field, cost $200 and unsigned are $150. And a limited number of the previous four posters are also still available, she said.
Each poster, as well as each 50th item, is adorned with special AIBF tags to let people they’re getting official merchandise, Mulder said.
“Here’s an insider’s tip. One of the problems the Balloon Fiesta has faced in the past is all of these other outside groups trying to use our name, trying to capitalize on the event, that type of thing,” Mulder said. “So you’ll see a lot of Balloon Fiesta stuff that’s not trademarked like it should be because we do have a trademarked event, trademarked name.”
But now the “AIBF” logo is incorporated into the designs or sewn on the sleeves of the apparel.
“We take the money and put it back into the community and the beautification of the park so it can be used year-round. We don’t own the park. So this was something we tried to do this year to make sure people knew they were getting authentic Balloon Fiesta items.”
And some of those are pretty darn cool.
Like the annually popular soft-shell jacket, which includes the phrase “50th anniversary” on the inside of the zipper protector.
“Soft shells are always huge every year,” Mulder said. “We took the 50th design then put it in the diamond design with the original 13 balloons. It’s hard to show on a lot of pieces but on the jacket, it looks great. The balloon on the bottom that’s large, that’s Sid’s balloon. Sid Cutter, of course.”
The jackets go for $175. And the old-school varsity lettermen’s jacket with a ’72 on the pocket, quilted interior, snap buttons and embroidered logo on the back goes for $200.
“We did a lot of jackets this year, more than we normally would have,” she said. “We had a fun time trying to bring out the, retro, varsity jacket. It’s a throwback for Balloon Fiesta 1972.”
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a fiesta without a special pin. Or many, many pins in this case.
“We have this year – collectors are going to be upset – three 50-year pins in different colors,” Mulder. “Main one is gold, of course, for the 50th. Then in a rainbow version that’s kinds of anodized and it has that cool effect and did a turquoise one. Those all sold so well that I’m almost sold out so I reordered more for the field.”
Those pins each cost $15 and are just the start.
“We did a pink, white and completely different turquoise one for the field,” she said. “What we tried to do that was special with the regular retail pins was the 50 on each one is raised and we put one of the original 13 balloons on every pin.”
Those pins go for $9 each.
T-shirts aplenty abound with the Looney Toons-inspired characters that took more than two years of negotiations with Warner Brothers to be able to create.
But the modest T-shirts are what Mulder really enjoys.
“I love some of the celebration tees,” she said. “Something simple. We have three different colors with the blue, then purple and forest to give them some colors. They have the gold logo on the front and the gold celebration with the mountain and fireworks and a splash of color on the back.”
Each of the T-shirts sells for $30 and $35 for long sleeve.
And that includes the Del Sol Color Change shirts that look like ordinary white shirts until they hit the sun, then the UV rays bring forth colorful balloons, Mulder said.
Fiesta fanatics should also keep in mind a couple of books. The Guinness Book of World Records includes the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the “greatest mass hot air balloon ascent,” with 524, in 2019.
And the photo-heavy, coffee-table book “50 Years of Balloon Magic,” which includes sections on all the aspect of the fiesta like Dawn Patrol, Balloon Glow, Special Shape Rodeo, Glodeo and America’s Challenge, as well as special tribute to Sid Cutter.
The book, written Paul Rhetts, Dick Brown, Tom McConnell and Kim Vesely, will sell for $45 on the fiesta grounds.