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Balloon Fiesta

The city of Albuquerque, located in central New Mexico, is synonymous with ballooning, in so much as Albuquerque played host to the first ever World Hot Air Balloon Championships as well as more than 40 annually held Balloon Fiestas. Sid Cutter is often referred to as the "father of hot air ballooning" as he was the founding father of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta now billed as the largest event of its kind in the world!

Some of the photos featured here are from the very first Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, actually the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration for KOB Radio in 1972, taking place at the site of Coronado Center Shopping Mall. Sid Cutter, at that time, owned the only hot air  balloon in  the  state,  was asked if they could

Ballon Fiesta History

first Balloon Fiesta, Coronado Center

Shopping Mall, April, 1972

click to link to Balloon Fiesta

use his balloon as part of the celebration. Sid was also asked, "what's the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date". "19 balloons in England", replied Cutter. The station manager asked, "Can we get 19 here?" Cutter said he would try. He got commitments  from 21 pilots, but bad  weather kept some of them  from arriving in time for the festivities. The first fiesta ended

First Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The following February, 1973, Albuquerque hosted the first World Hot-Air Balloon Championships and the fiesta became an international event. In 1975 Albuquerque was looking at hosting the World Championships again but the event was scheduled for October. So the fiesta was moved to correspond with the championships. To maintain interest in Albuquerque’s bid to host the championships, a balloon rally was also held in February of that year. Autumn being a far better flying time than February, the event has remained in early October to the present day.

first Balloon Fiesta, 1971

New Mexico State Fairgrounds, horseracing track infield, 1974

Balloon Fiesta History

up as a gathering of 13 balloons on April 8, 1972, sponsored by KOB Radio. The first event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall with 20,000 spectators and balloonists from all over. Cutter with a few others are credited with originally starting the balloon races.  The first fiesta  incorporated  a "Roadrunner-Coyote Balloon Race" (a "hare-and-hounds" race elsewhere in the world) with one balloon the Roadrunner and the others being Coyote balloons. The winner of the race – the “Coyote” that landed closest to the Roadrunner – was Don Piccard, flying a balloon of his own design and construction. This race has continued as part of the Balloon Fiesta today in one way or another.

Balloon Fiesta History

New Mexico State Fairgrounds, horse track infield, 1973

The coming years saw the event grow to epic proportions and as the event grew so too did the need for additional space in order to accommodate the number of pilots and aircraft seeking the cool crisp air of the high-desert and clear blue New Mexican skies (don't forget the green chili).

Balloon Fiesta History Sid Cutter

a young Sid Cutter

as pilot/aviator

Balloon Fiesta History Sid Cuter

simply click on the photograph to enlarge while using the white arrows to the left and right to scroll