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'It's unreal': People come from across the Southwest to witness Balloon Fiesta

Joy Wang and Kai Porter
October 07, 2017 10:07 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The 2017 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is officially underway after Saturday morning’s Mass Ascension, and it wasn’t just a spectacle for locals.

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Like every year, others came from out of state to witness the Land of Enchantment’s most enchanting event.

“We came from Denver, so we left this morning at like 5 in the morning,” said fiesta attendee Lea Miller. “I have a thing for hot air balloons. I’ve always wanted to come, so yeah, we’re going to do the lights tonight and tomorrow we’re going to see the big liftoff for Mass Ascension. We’re pretty excited.”

No matter where visitors hailed from, it’s clear there’s nothing like watching hundreds of hot air balloons take off and land in Albuquerque.

“Just excellent,” said Ysidro Hernandez, who is visiting from Colorado. “When we first see it, it’s mind-blowing. Especially from up there where we parked, it’s unreal. It’s pretty awesome.”

Between the balloons, the photo opportunities and the fun, some would call it the most wonderful time of the year.

No offense to the Christmas season, of course.

“My folks are from Wisconsin and they used to land in our yard. So I grew up seeing them land and never seeing them take off,” Miller said.

TIGHT SECURITY

To make sure everyone has a fun and safe time, extra security measures have been put in place this year for the fiesta that draws thousands. That means every single bag is being checked thoroughly.

It’s a policy that Lucy Reyna, visiting from San Antonio, agrees with.

“Every place really should be checking bags, because you never know what could be carried in them,” Reyna said.

Organizers are also teaming up with federal authorities to make sure first responders can more effectively communicate with each other.

“You never know if somebody’s carrying or planning anything, so I think it’s really good,” said Destini Sierra, attending her first Balloon Fiesta.

That way, spectators can focus on watching the beauty of the colors filling the skies, and enjoy it with their families and loved ones.

“I think it’s actually really family-friendly,” Sierra said. “Having the kids being able to run around in the fields and stuff, looking at all the shops. It’s nice.”

LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT

The balloon party doesn't stop when the sun goes down. That just means it's time for the glow, when the balloons stay on the ground, allowing visitors to get closer than they otherwise might to the colorful creations. 

"With the glow, we get a lot more interaction with the crowd," said balloonist Tom Kious. "We're standing on the ground. We're sitting here for 45 minutes (to) an hour, and people come up. It's fun talking with the people (and) interacting with everybody."

Sue Burrow is visiting from Texas, and said this year is her second Balloon Fiesta. She told KOB she loved it so much last year that her kids brought her back this year to help celebrate her birthday. 

"Watching them go up is too cool," Burrow said. "Like, I want to ride, you know, but the difference to me is tonight when it's dark and they light up, that's where the real beauty is. It's a fantastic time."

EXPLORING THE DUKE CITY

Tourists have also taken the opportunity of being in Albuquerque to visit Old Town.

For months, businesses in the area have been struggling to get people in their doors, what with construction making a trip to Old Town as arduous as trying to get to the center of a life-sized maze.

With some of the orange cones gone on the Rio Grande, KOB asked vendors and tourists about their thoughts on the crowd compared to last year.

“They were busier in the past, but it’s just the beginning. So it’s hard to tell,” said Lisa Carillo, an Old Town vendor.

“You know, it really isn’t too bad. I didn’t even know there was any construction going on,” said Terry Pacheco, who is visiting from Las Vegas. “It didn’t seem to get in our way at all.”

Credits

Joy Wang and Kai Porter

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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