Old Town Albuquerque sees Balloon Fiesta boost

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some describe Old Town as the heart of Albuquerque. Each year, it rolls out the welcome mat for the thousands of visitors who arrive for Balloon Fiesta.

“We’ve already spent some money. Gonna spend some more. It’s just beautiful,” said Mary Ann Jarrell, a visitor from Georgia.

Jarrell and her seven cousins chose Albuquerque for their yearly road trip. They say it’s already their favorite destination, not just because of the scenery.

“The nicest people are in New Mexico. They really are. They speak to you. They’re just, friendly.”

Gabe Trujillo and his friends are all retired. They make it a tradition to show off their hot rods every Friday at Old Town Plaza.

The guys get a kick out of visitors who admire their rides as they stroll around the plaza.

“The balloonists enjoy it, the tourists enjoy it, Old Town enjoys it. We enjoy showing them off,” Trujillo said.

All around them is a melting pot of visitors.

“Germany, Italy, Mexico, [visitors are] just from everywhere.”

Balloon Fiesta is an economic engine for the Albuquerque metro. Last year, the 9-day Fiesta generated $203.19 million for local businesses.

This year, Fiesta officials anticipate they will eclipse that.