The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been held annually since 1972 and features hundreds of hot air balloons filling the skies of New Mexico.
Because of the event's safety record, spectators can walk among the hot air balloons and talk to the pilots. After this year's Balloon Fiesta, we spoke with Sheri Hurt, who attended the event with her husband, Scott.
Hurt says, "I've actually attended nearly all of the Balloon Fiestas, including the very first one in a dirt lot next to the parking lot of Coronado Shopping Center back in 1972 when I was a little girl attending with my mother and grandmother."
Hurt only missed several Balloon Fiestas in the '80s when she was out of town at college and couldn't make it back home.
The first Balloon Fiesta featured 13 balloons. This year's festivities featured more than 500 balloons at the Balloon Fiesta and activities lasted for over a week.
The Hurts enjoy going to many of the events each year. Sheri says, "My favorite times to go are Thursday and Friday mornings. The morning starts off with a Special Shapes Mass Ascension and when those balloons have taken off, the Prize Grab event starts."
After the balloons take off from the field, balloonists try to use the winds to steer their balloons over the field where poles with prizes are set up.
"Pilots try to steer close enough to one of the poles to reach out and grab the envelope from the top of the pole," Hurt says. "If they touch the ground, they're disqualified."
According to Hurt, the weekday morning events are less crowded than the weekends, although there are great photo opportunities every day.
Like most years, the weather was good the first weekend and early in the week; however, there was more wind later in the week, which postponed some of the events.
Hurt advises those planning to attend Balloon Fiesta, "It's much better to come earlier in the week because the weather tends to be better, and there's always the possibility of changing your travel plans if you want to stay longer."
Among the new Special Shapes at this year's event were Hummingbird and Angry Bird balloons. The Special Shapes Glow was the only event cancelled due to weather.
Hot air balloon pin trading becomes more popular at each year's event. Hurt, who has collected balloon pins since she was 11 or 12, says, "One of the most popular unofficial pins this year was a 'Ballooning Bad' pin with the logo and mobile home from the popular show Breaking Bad that was filmed here in Albuquerque and finished its final season just a few weeks ago."
Hurt also enjoys walking along the concession row, which features souvenirs, a special poster for each year's event, amusements for children, and many foods, including the popular breakfast burrito.
Make your plans now to attend next year's Balloon Fiesta, which will be held Oct. 4-12 in 2014. With more than 100,000 people attending the event, it's not too early to plan ahead.