City to hold small-scale bal­loon fest in Oc­to­ber

Scat­tered launches will fol­low the model of July 4 fire­works shows


This year’s Oc­to­ber sky may be more than blue af­ter all.

Al­though COVID-19 prompted can­cel­la­tion of the 2020 Al­bu­querque In­ter­na­tional Bal­loon Fi­esta, Al­bu­querque of­fi­cials say they are work­ing to get some bal­loons in the air any­way with a new event they have dubbed Bal­loon Fall Fest. The city has in­vited lo­cal pilots to par­tic­i­pate in a se­ries of scat­tered launches at city golf cour­ses and parks from Oct. 3 to 11. The launches will be closed to the pub­lic.

City Parks and Re­cre­ation Di­rec­tor Dave Si­mon es­ti­mated that about 200 hot air bal­loon pilots live in the Al­bu­querque area and said Wed­nes­day that sev­eral dozen pilots have sig­naled in­ter­est in the city’s plan.

“We are re­ally ex­cited so many bal­loon­ists are in­di­cat­ing they want to fly,” Si­mon said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence about the fes­ti­val Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon at Bal­loon Fi­esta Park.

The city-owned park is base for the Al­bu­querque In­ter­na­tional Bal­loon Fi­esta, a pri­vately run event that at­tracts sev­eral hun­dred pilots to the city from around the world each Oc­to­ber. But given the vi­ral pan­demic, or­ga­niz­ers de­cided in June to call off this year’s event.

Look­ing to at least partly fill the void, city of­fi­cials de­signed the Bal­loon Fall Fest.

“We be­lieve Al­bu­querque fam­i­lies still de­serve, and should, see bal­loons in the sky in the fall,” Mayor Tim Keller said.

The pro­gram is mod­eled af­ter the city’s 2020 Fourth of July fes­tiv­i­ties. Un­able to host its cus­tom­ary sin­gle­site hol­i­day ex­trav­a­ganza due to re­stric­tions on gath­er­ings, the city in­stead spread the pro­gram around the metro area. Fire­works were shot off at four sites that were closed to the pub­lic, but the dis­plays were in­tended to reach as wide an au­di­ence as pos­si­ble.

Keller called the model a suc­cess.

“It was very well-re­ceived. It was safe. Peo­ple seemed to ap­pre­ci­ate it and fol­low the rules around it,” he said. “I think peo­ple also re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the fact we did some­thing.”

The Bal­loon Fall Fest plan in­cludes launches at se­lect sites the morn­ings of Oct. 3, 4, 7, 10 and 11. They will take off be­tween 7 and 7:30 a.m. if weather per­mits, Si­mon said.

The city will also open the Bal­loon Fi­esta Park gates to pilots ev­ery day of the fes­ti­val’s run, though it will pro­hibit spec­ta­tors.

The city is still con­sid­er­ing other po­ten­tial sites, and pilots will help de­ter­mine the lo­ca­tions. Si­mon iden­ti­fied North Domingo Baca Park, Vista del Norte Park, Mari­posa Basin Park and Ven­tana Ranch Park as other promis­ing launch venues.

“The bal­loons are go­ing to be widely spaced, and the bal­loon crews will be lim­ited in size,” he said.

The city will re­strict pub­lic ac­cess to the se­lected lo­ca­tions dur­ing the launch win­dows, he said. Mea­sures will in­clude park­ing lot clo­sures.

In an ef­fort to make it a safe, co­or­di­nated event, the city is re­quir­ing pilots to reg­is­ter. Keller said that will also help the city com­mu­ni­cate any COVIDre­lated reg­u­la­tions to pilots who may want to come from else­where, in­clud­ing the manda­tory 14-day quar­an­tine from cer­tain states.

“If they’re com­ing in from Mo­ri­arty, I think we’re OK. … If it’s out of state, they have to fol­low all the state or­ders — there is no ex­cep­tion made to any state pub­lic health or­der,” he said.


City of­fi­cials are plan­ning a Bal­loon Fall Fest to fill the void cre­ated by the can­cel­la­tion of the 2020 Al­bu­querque In­ter­na­tional Bal­loon Fi­esta.

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