Here in Albuquerque, we are known for holding the world's largest hot air balloon festival, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®, each fall. However, fall is not the only time of year that balloons can be found floating overhead. Our city - which has more resident balloonists than any other state - sees about 300 flyable days each year, meaning that pilots take advantage of our great weather every season.

Each February, a local ballooning group called the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (AAAA), puts on a fun Valentine's Day event called the Friends & Lovers Balloon Rally. The rally raises money for charity and recognizes the hard work of ballooning crew members and volunteers - it is also free and open to the public. If you missed this year's event (which was held February 8-9th at Balloon Fiesta Park), our team captured some of the action for you.

ABQ365 Photographer, Brian Spencer, was able to take a ride with one of the pilots, Mike Johnson, and got some beautiful shots. See more of Brian's photos from the event here

Friends & Lovers Hot Air Balloon Rally - Brian Spencer 

Friends and Lovers - Brian Spencer 

Friends & Lovers Rally - Brian Spencer 

Friends & Lovers - Brian Spencer 

The Hearts A 'Fire balloon could be considered the event's quintessential lighter-than-air craft. Adorned by hearts and piloted by Albuquerque local, Dick Rice, the balloon stayed on the ground for Saturday's opening event and then took to the skies on Sunday morning.

Friends & Lovers - Albuquerque, New Mexico (ABQ365)

Dick Rice, pictured above (top right) 

Friends & Lovers - Albuquerque, New Mexico 

Hearts A Fire hot air balloon - Friends & Lovers Balloon Rally 2014 

With spring-like temperatures the weekend of the event, both days provided excellent flying conditions for the participating pilots and spectators. Said Rice in reference to the weekend's weather: "It turned out pretty darn okay."

We'll take that.