The Balloon Fiesta was certainly the highlight of our trip. It is impossible to describe how spectacular the launch of approximately 600 balloons in a two hour period can be. This, added with the predawn “morning glow” and the dawn launch of the balloons with their propane burners lighting the multi colored balloons make this a must see event.
The Fiesta usually takes place in early October, lasting nine days and encompassing two weekends. There are numerous ways to attend. We chose to go with the Newmar Kountry Klub and travel from the Newmar Rally just finishing in Pueblo, CO. They had reserved 50 sites in the VIP section which was next to the Balloon Museum and only a short walk from the launch field. These sites are at a premium and virtually impossible to get without going through a club or tour group. We hesitated at the price of over a $1000 for the five days of dry camping, but now after being there we are glad we did. The price included a complete guide and instructions on how best to get there without hitting heavy traffic, tickets to all field sessions, a special commemorative jacket, three lunches and two dinners at very nice restaurants. In addition, the hosts provided valuable insight on how to get the most out of the event. The first evening one of the balloon pilots brought his basket to our sites and provided a private demonstration on how everything works in a balloon flight. We were so close to the field that two mornings we relaxed at the motor home, drank our coffee and watched the balloons drift right over us. Some that couldn’t make altitude even landed right behind us in the parking lot.
We decided on the “ultimate” package but you can certainly attend this event for much less money. If you stay about a mile away from the field you should be able to get a site for well under a $100 a day. Someone told me that there are spaces available for $25 a day, but I have not personally verified that price. However, you will receive none of the other amenities or inside info on the fiesta. You’re on your own basically. You will need to be bused or drive to and from the site every morning and evening and then will have to purchase tickets to the event. They have a morning and an evening session and tickets are $10 for each and parking is $15. Unfortunately, there is no activity on the field between the morning and evening session so there are about 6 hours between them. That means if you wanted to attend both sessions one day it would cost $10 dollars for each session and $15 for parking each time. However, it is still less expensive than the VIP section. If you are on a budget it is certainly a great way to see the event for less.
I was skeptical about needing to stay for five days, but found that to be a good amount of time to take in everything that there is to offer here including a visit to the Balloon Museum and a day for our own ride. It also allows for any inclement weather days that may ground the balloons. We had one while we were there.
We did take the opportunity to take our first balloon ride during our stay. It is better to go off site for the ride as the one company authorized to provide rides from the launch field charged $450 per person. A little steep in my opinion. We drove about four miles and booked with Apex balloons for $250 per person. Our flight lasted for a little over an hour and was exciting. Aside from the the great flight, we ended up landing in a small parking lot in downtown Albuquerque just missing the street lights and parked cars as we came in. Actually our pilot had 2500 hours flying time and knew what he was doing. It was still a hard landing and skid on the asphalt lot.
There may be a less expensive alternative to paying for a ride too. Some balloon pilots on the field look for volunteers to help “crew” the balloon. That means helping with the unpacking of the balloon, getting the lines and basket ready and anything else that needs to be done in preparation for flight. It is not a 100 percent sure thing, but some pilots will offer a balloon ride in exchange for the help.
For more information you can go to the Fiesta website at:
Below I’ve added a gallery of some of the pics we took during the week.