ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KRQE) – Totals are for this year Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival, and although organizers say there were record crowds, total attendance was “average” compared to other Fiesta events. Fiesta says an estimated total of 828,800 people attended the nine-day event in 2022.
“This year, oh my, the whole world showed up here in Albuquerque, and I’m so proud to say that everyone rolled out the red carpet for all of these balloonists around the world,” said Sam Parks, Director operations for the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The 2022 total is greater than Total event attendance in 2021 of 783,866 people. However, it is a bit below 2019 numbers. The last pre-pandemic Fiesta in 2019 saw 866,414 guests.
At a Friday press conference, Parks attributed the totals to weather conditions. Fiesta was unable to hold any of its parties at this year’s event.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have any of our evening shows. Although we had fireworks and the drone show, we had music. But fortunately only three of the nine morning sessions were canceled due to weather conditions,” Parks said.
Fiesta celebrated its 50th event this year, introducing new elements like a drone show and a large presence of remote-controlled balloons. The event also aimed to stage some of the biggest mass ascensions in its history, with around 648 balloons invited. More than 120 of them were special shaped balls and 20 different countries were represented.
fiesta opening weekends drew massive crowds on Saturday and Sunday. “This first Saturday morning, shall we say opening day, is the biggest crowd I have ever seen at Balloon Fiesta Park. All of our parking lots were full; all of our park-and-ride buses were full; I don’t know where we could have put another single person! said Parks.
While the organizers planned record attempts with RC balloons and the more balloons to participate in a glow, the wind and the rain changed most of those plans. Organizers canceled this year’s America’s Challenge gas balloon race after Fiesta said “weather conditions made it impossible to hold a safe and competitive race”.
A crowd of thousands was also caught up in the event first “shelter in place” as a storm cell formed during a Special Shapes Glowdeo event during Fiesta’s Friday Night event. Another shelter-in-place followed Saturday night’s events.
Balloon Fiesta officials spoke of the success of the new ramp near Balloon Fiesta Park: “APD is already giving us feedback on how it worked, and it was a huge improvement being able to get out of Balloon Fiesta Park and going straight south on I-25 was a game changer this year,” Parks says.
Officials recognized landowners who participated in the “X Marks the Spot” campaign, which allows balloonists to land on their property. They also discussed ways to expand access for them in the future. “If we don’t have a place where these balloons can land, it will hinder the balloon party. We want to be able to grow it instead of seeing it shrink over time and maybe not even exist anymore,” says Brook Bassan, Albuquerque Councilman for District 4.
The idea of having the city collaborate with businesses to redo their landscaping to allow for the landing of balloons was floated; they even offered to buy more properties for it: “There are some properties in Albuquerque that would be really great to be able to buy and maybe turn into something that we can use year-round for families of the community can benefit from it but also be able to use it for landing sites,” said Bassan.
Balloon Fiesta officials said there were 1.6 million live impressions from people watching the event online worldwide.