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Balloon Fiesta attracted over 100,000 more visitors this year

This year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta attracted well over 100,000 more visitors than last year’s event, something that AIBF officials attribute mostly to cooperative weather and more on-field events.

The nine-day fiesta, with new major corporate sponsor Canon, drew an estimated 955,703 visits, up from 2014’s estimated 848,293 visits.

“I’m impressed,” AIBF board president Mike Rice said Tuesday. “That’s quite a jump. All the morning flying events and mass ascensions went off and most of the evening events were held because the weather was our friend and did cooperate.”

Weather conditions did, however, force the cancelation of two evening balloon glows as well as the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, only the second time the distance race had been scrubbed since it began 20 years ago.

Events such as laser light shows, the Parabatix Sky Racers, children’s amusement areas, chainsaw carving competitions and arts and crafts shows “kept the crowds on the field after the morning launches, and that helped the vendors a lot, as well as spread out the exit traffic, which was less a problem than it has been at times in the past,” Rice said.

While financial figures for the fiesta are not yet available, Rice said anecdotally he’s heard from vendors who were “very pleased” and say their sales were up this year. Likewise, revenue from parking and Park-and-Ride transportation also appear higher, he said.

This year’s fiesta brought together more than 550 registered balloon teams – including 105 special shape balloons – representing 17 countries and 44 states from across America. Also present were 1,010 media representatives from 147 organizations.

This year marked the third annual Music Fiesta, held on the final Saturday of the Balloon Fiesta. It featured The Band Perry, Gloriana and Two Way Crossing. The concert preceded the announcement of the winners of the 2015 Film Fest presented by Comcast.

Each team’s videos were shown on the concert big screen. Taking first place was a team from Santa Fe University of Art and Design, whose video is also being made available on Comcast’s local On-Demand service.

The first prize in the overall balloon competition went to Rhett Heartsill of Texas; second place winner was Maurice Petrehn of Kansas; and third place was Joe Heartsill of Texas. Shawn Raya of Michigan won the Sid Cutter Memorial Challenge.
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