This year, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® celebrates 50 years of what has become a fall tradition in Albuquerque and one of the most photographed events in the world. A lot has changed since the first time hot air balloonists gathered in Albuquerque in 1972. Let’s take a look back at how it all started.


The first Balloon Fiesta happened in 1972, when 13 balloons gathered in the eastern edge of the parking lot of the Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque. The ballooning event was part of a celebration for the 50th anniversary of local radio station KOB (now KKOB). The station’s promotional director got in touch with local balloon pilot Sid Cutter, who invited other pilots from around the country to attend a hot air balloon race in Albuquerque.

1972 Balloon Fiesta 1

Photo Credit: Marv Coon/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Twenty-one balloonists were invited to attend, but a storm in the Midwest and other last-minute cancellations meant only 13 balloonists participated. Still, the hot air balloon pilots who came from all over the country put on a show for about 10,000 spectators that would go down in history as the first Balloon Fiesta on April 8, 1972.

1972 Balloon Fiesta 2

Photo Credit: Brown/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The annual event grew from there. By 1978, the Balloon Fiesta had become the largest hot air ballooning event in the world. In 1975, the event moved from February to October each year to take advantage of ideal wind patterns and sailing conditions. In 1986, the City of Albuquerque opened Balloon Fiesta Park, a 365-acre launch field that not only is the site of the Fiesta each October but also hosts festivals, fairs and community events year-round. Balloon Fiesta Park also is home to the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum.

1972 Balloon Fiesta 3

Photo Credit: Marv Coon/Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

By 2000, the number of balloons participating in the Fiesta had reached 1,019. As the city grew and vacant land for landing spots became harder to find, Fiesta officials began capping the number of balloons allowed to participate.


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 19

More than 500 balloons and hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the Duke City every October to participate in one of the greatest traditions our city has to offer. The number of events that take place during the Fiesta has greatly expanded to include evening Balloon Glows, mass ascensions dedicated to special shape balloons, musical performances and fireworks shows. 

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 18

Balloon Fiesta is known as “the world’s most photographed event” with more than 25 million pictures taken. And there is plenty of time to make sure you can snap some pictures of the 50th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® in October! Tickets are on sale now. This year’s Balloon Fiesta will take place October 1-9, 2022.

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