Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
After a tumultuous nine days that included two shelters-in-place due to weather, a community-wide effort to air out soaked balloons, two minor balloon crashes and a mad dash to locate a stolen giant bee, balloons took to the skies Sunday morning to put an exclamation point on the 50th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
While the weather wasn’t great, the event’s 50th anniversary at least stayed true to its theme. Balloon events were 50-50 in 2022. Of the 14 balloon-related events scheduled this year, seven of them happened as planned and seven were scrapped due to weather.
“Basically we had 50-50, half of our events went off and half of them did not,” said Tom Garrity, a spokesman for the fiesta.
Garrity said exact attendance figures won’t be announced for some time. But he said the event was widely attended, particularly during the first weekend.
There were ups and downs throughout this year’s fiesta.
This year’s fiesta included a stolen balloon – Joelly, the popular “baby bee” balloon, was stolen early Thursday, though Albuquerque police later found the balloon.
On Friday morning, a woman and a child were taken to the hospital after two separate crashes on Albuquerque’s West Side. The two suffered minor injuries, police said.
That night and Saturday night, fiesta officials advised those in attendance to seek immediate shelter due to dangerous weather.
On Saturday, about 50 balloons had to be dried out inside multiple large facilities in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.
But the weather broke and people from all over the country gazed up at the sky from the infield Sunday morning. Hundreds of balloons were able to take off after a slight wind delay.
“It turned out to be a beautiful day for flying and a beautiful day out at Balloon Fiesta Park,” Garrity said.
Fiesta organizers said they will release details about next year’s fiesta in the coming weeks; however, dates for next year’s event are posted as Oct. 7-15, 2023 on the event’s website.
“To our pilots, sponsors, volunteers and staff – we could not have done this without you,” organizers wrote on Facebook. “We look forward to another 50 years!”