X Marks the Spot: Keeping balloonists safe during the Balloon Fiesta

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of balloon pilots will lift off from Balloon Fiesta Park in just a few weeks.

"We all know what goes up, must come down," said Sam Parks, director of operations for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

That’s why organizers are bringing back the X Marks the Spot program, inviting homeowners to put a big, white X in their yard in order to signal to balloon pilots that it’s safe to land there.

"So whenever a balloon pilot is flying, all around the world, whenever they see typically a white sheet or something like that, it’s always the international symbol of a welcome sign," Parks said.

If a pilot lands in a yard, the homeowner will be entered for a chance to win a basket with more than $2,000 worth of prizes inside.

"Food, biscochitos, we have items from our friends at the Isotopes, and the Lobos, and the Gladiators – all kinds of wonderful things," said Shannan Jacques, chief development officer for the Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

City leaders said they need more landowners to get on board to keep the Balloon Fiesta flying high.

"Open landing sites are minimizing every day, week, month so we need to make sure we still have safe places for balloonists to land if we want to continue having a strong, international balloon fiesta here that people want to come to," Albuquerque City Councilor Brooke Bassan said.

The Hispano Chamber of Commerce has hundreds of X’s ready to go, but it’s first-come, first-serve. Organizers said the pandemic actually disrupted the supply chain – so they can’t make many more, but DIY X’s are OK too.

"We’ve seen big rolls of butcher paper, the white butcher paper, that have actually been drawn on and designed on," Jacques said. "Families leave their marks and the kids draw on them. We’ve seen boxes, white boxes just laid out and put together, obviously sheets and towels, that type of material, it doesn’t have to be perfect."

Those who are interested can pick up a pre-made X from three different locations in the metro:

  • West Side Signature Sweets and Flowers at 3322 Coors Blvd NW #5N
  • South Valley and Downtown Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce at 1309 4th SW
  • Northeast Heights PC Place II at 9324 Menaul Blvd NE

The Balloon Fiesta kicks off Saturday, Oct. 2. For more information about the X Marks the Spot program, click here.