Organizers prep for the return of the Balloon Fiesta

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is right around the corner and organizers say it is all hands on deck — or all hands on gondola — when it comes to getting ready.

“Balloon Fiesta is going to happen, we are aligned, we are on board and we are taking off,” Mayor Tim Keller announced Saturday.

Over 15 city, county, and state agencies are all coming together to make sure Balloon Fiesta Park is ready to go when over 550 balloons land in the Duke City in just two weeks.

APD outlined their security plan for the grounds, they will have uniformed, plain clothed, and horseback officers patrolling along with other agencies. The Department of Solid waste says they are working with the surrounding neighborhood to clean up the area. The Department of Arts and Culture is highlighting new exhibits, like the “Elevation Station” that is now open in the Balloon museum. All while Parks and Rec are setting up the field.

“White pylons have sprouted on this field and the white canopy tents are going up it’s starting to look like Camelot again and two short weeks this is going to be the most beautiful 86 acres in the world,” said David Simon, director of Parks and Recreation.

As the countdown to New Mexico’s largest gathering continues, some folks are still cautious to attend any gatherings and questions of COVID precautions are being raised.

“Balloon Fiesta has been working on several different contingency plans for well over a year now, and we are currently following the CDC’s guidelines which include masks mandatory indoors as well as outdoors in crowded settings,” said Sam Parks, organizer of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Parks adds they will keep the fiesta as outdoors as possible. All food vendors will be outside, with no indoor dining options this year. Balloons of interest will be spread out more across the field. And crews will be working to constantly sanitize surfaces throughout the park.

Even with all these plans in place, organizers say they are still working with the health department. Right now, proof of vaccination is not required to go to the fiesta, but it’s not off the table.

“We are watching what’s happening at the State Fair and what requirements have occurred there and what the governor and our health department have said about the fair. So, as we have seen how that has transpired and how it was managed, we will work with the Fiesta to see what mandates are in place and we will work with them to make them happen,” Albuquerque Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael said.

But organizers in all departments remain optimistic for the full return of Balloon Fiesta.

“We know this is very important for our city to lift us out of the pandemic we know we are not done, yet we know there are still lots of issue in respect of covid but we are seeing numbers plateau and taper off a little bit and I think that is encouraging,” said Keller.

Finalized COVID precautions and plans are expected to be made in the next week, in the meantime organizers encourage everyone to check out their “Know Before You Go” page on their website to see the latest COVID requirements.