Albuquerque, NM – October 1-9 marked the 40th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It was dedicated to Balloon Fiesta founder Sid Cutter. This year there were 563 registered balloons, 98 of which fell in to the special shapes category and eight were classified as gas balloons.

Balloons from 21 countries filled Albuquerque skies during the 9 day event, including those from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. There were 42 states represented in this year’s Balloon Fiesta.

There were eight gas balloons registered for the America’s Challenge race. Britain’s David Hempleman- Adams and co-pilot Jonathan Mason, who now resides in Australia, traveled nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 km) to the Canadian border in North Dakota and in the process set the new America’s Challenge duration record of 71 hours, 31 minutes.

Balloon Fiesta’s estimated 2011 attendance is 737,466 visits. The number is down slightly from 2010’s estimated 811, 484 visits. The main reason for the decreased attendance this year was the weather. Rain and wind forced the cancelation of events on Wednesday morning, Thursday evening, Friday morning and Friday evening. Historically the Thursday evening and Friday sessions are some of most heavily attended outside of opening weekend.

The new event this year was the Sandia Resort and Casino $100,000 challenge, the richest active prize in ballooning. It will test pilot’s skill and provide great visuals as competitors play an airborne version of ring toss, trying to connect with one of ten poles during the competitive flying events. Joe Heartsill of San Angelo Texas was successful two days of competition but because of the weather the event was not held on the third and fourth days as originally intended. But, Heartsill still received $1000 plus two $2000 gift certificates from Croton Watches for the two days he was successful. Additionally, Heartsill won the overall Balloon Fiesta competition and received a Lindstrand balloon (a $23,000 value) and

another Croton certificate.

About the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival of hot air balloons that takes place every October in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. It is the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. For details on events, schedule, entertainment and photographs visit our website and follow us in on Twitter @BalloonFiesta and Facebook.