Rainy weather wraps up 50th Balloon Fiesta

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After more than a week of celebrating, the 50th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has come and gone and organizers are resting up and drying off.

Fiesta officials say they expect to have attendance numbers around the end of the month. We won’t know until later this month how many people attended this year’s Balloon Fiesta or how many people the bad weather may have kept away.

Nonetheless, the event saw lots of rain.

“I’ve been the director of operations for four years, and I was the balloon meister for six years prior to that, so I can tell you within the last decade, this has not happened,” said Sam Parks, Balloon Fiesta director of operations. 

Fiesta officials say they started worrying about the weather right before the fiesta began.

“It became apparent probably that Friday morning of Albuquerque Aloft that we were going to be in for some challenges after we got through the first weekend,” said Parks. 

For visitors, planning a visit was worrisome too.

“We were not happy that we had a lot of cancellations this year,” said one Balloon Fiesta visitor.  

“We’ve been rained out before, but never like this,” said another fiesta-goer. 

Still, Balloon Fiesta organizers are optimistic attendance numbers will be good. Balloons launched six out of the nine mornings, but evening events were wiped out.

Parks says last Friday’s brief Balloon Glow doesn’t count after a surprise thunderstorm forced the crowd to clear out and find shelter.

“It lasted all of about 10 minutes.  I would say that it wasn’t much of a glow,” he said. 

Parks said the Fiesta’s last day was among the largest crowds he’s seen.

“I can tell you that on our first weekend we filled up all of our parking lots, and that’s a testament to the desire to be here for our 50th birthday,” he said. 

Fiesta officials say they expect to have attendance numbers around the end of October.