ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The International Balloon Fiesta is one of Albuquerque’s biggest events, and with it comes big crowds. However when all those crowds leave, Balloon Fiesta Park sees big  traffic jams.This weekend, traffic congestion went on for miles and made a lot of drivers frustrated.

“The pressure of getting that many cars and people onto Balloon Fiesta Park was somewhat unprecedented,” said fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity.

Some people were turned away Saturday morning as parking lots filled up. Then Saturday evening, drivers were at a standstill with some waiting hours to get out of Balloon Fiesta Park. On Monday, City Council President Ken Sanchez said it’s time to take a serious look at the situation.

“I think long-term wise, one of the things we should look at as a city is purchasing additional property near that site,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he wants the city to add more roads into the park and more parking lots. However, the land around the park may cost a lot of money.

“Unfortunately, that is probably going to be prime property at a very expensive cost,” Sanchez said.

The Sandia Pueblo is north of the park. Sanchez hopes to start talks with the governors there to see if they could maybe work something out.

“The benefit is to the entire state, the pueblo and the city,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said that could take a while. On the meantime, he said the city and Balloon Fiesta officials need to up the push on leaving the car out of the equation.

“I think we really need to look at increasing our park and ride throughout the city and make it more convenient for visitors across the country, across the world and locally.,” Sanchez said.

He said an outside company has operated park and ride at the fiesta since 2000. Now he wants the city to get involved.

“If we can accommodate at least on the weekends,” Sanchez said, adding that could make an immediate impact.

Sanchez would like to see that done before next year’s events take flight ensuring Balloon Fiesta Park isn’t put in jeopardy.

“I would hate to see them move again which and I think this is a prime location for this venue,” Sanchez said.

Balloon Fiesta officials say they will begin meeting in February to take a closer look at things. Currently, there are seven designated parking lots for the park that hold 12,000 cars. The city said  the Convention and Visitors Bureau will tweak its marketing strategy, pushing more weekday events to relieve some of the weekend crowd.

Stage Coach, Balloon Fiesta KRQE

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Officials say attendance was so good at Balloon Fiesta Saturday that many got stuck in traffic trying to get to the field. Parking lots at and around the Fiesta grounds were full Saturday morning. Traffic was also at a standstill surrounding the park.

Balloon Fiesta officials were urging drivers to take alternate routes.

At this time, it is unknown how many people attended Balloon Fiesta Saturday morning.

 

The green flag went up early Saturday morning for mass ascension on the final weekend of the 2014 Balloon Fiesta.

After the balloons go up, there’s still a lot going on at Balloon Fiesta Park. Pin trading starts at 11 a.m. Country fans will love Music Fiesta this year, as Josh Turner and friends will be rocking out at the park at noon.

The night magic Balloon Glow begins at 5:45 p.m., followed by a fireworks show.

Sunday’s farewell mass ascension marks the final event of Balloon Fiesta.

It begins at 7 a.m.

 

Go here to see 500 photo slide show

 

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Balloon Fiesta mass ascension lifted off to ideal conditions Saturday morning as light winds pushed balloons north of the field.

According to the Albuquerque Police Department and Balloon Fiesta officials due to the large turnout, all Balloon Fiesta parking lots were full and traffic also was at a standstill most of the morning.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The countless pictures taken of Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta and the millions of words written about it have painted a wonderful picture of our premier event. We won’t try to add to those stories. However, there are a couple of other angles about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta we would like to explore.

First, this week is definitely Albuquerque’s week to shine – or maybe soar would be a better word. While tourists enjoy Albuquerque and New Mexico as much as they enjoy the balloons, we get to enjoy seeing these visitors impressed with our hometown. We get to pat ourselves on the back as we hear folks praise our community and its beauty. The frustrations caused by traffic congestion and crowds at our favorite restaurants pale in comparison to the pride we feel in this place we have chosen to call home.

This is the one week of the year when we can put aside the problems facing the people who live here. We can, at least temporarily, forget our struggles with crime or education or poverty or those infuriating lists that continue to show us at the bottom. We can take a short break and just be proud that we live in this wonderful state. It’s good for our self esteem.

Second, credit must be given to fiesta planners who devote so much time and effort to create a perfect event, knowing all the time they have no control over the weather. It’s not as if the balloons can be moved inside if it’s too windy. It’s not as if the dates can be changed. At the end of the day, the weather is in charge.

Those planners of the balloon fiesta give so much heart and soul, not to mention blood, sweat and tears, to pull it all together, to make sure the balloon community, the visitors, the businesses and the city get to experience a wonderful fiesta. The amazing effort required that allows us to easily enjoy the beauty and the fun of the balloons is unbelievable.

And yet, after all this work, regardless of the exceptional planning, the fiesta is at the mercy of Mother Nature and her whims. It must get frustrating at times for the people who have devoted so much time and energy to this event to know it can all fall apart because of something they cannot control. These people deserve our appreciation for all their hard work, but also they deserve our appreciation for continuing in spite of the knowledge that unexpected weather can change everything, and they can’t plan for that.

On another note, we want to praise the folks responsible for the construction on Paseo del Norte. They have designed the work on this gargantuan project so that it hasn’t caused balloon fiesta traffic to be thwarted; people have still been able to get from Point A to Point B. The project managers deserve our praise.

We also are impressed with the amount of progress that has been made. The access from eastbound Paseo to southbound I-25 seems complete and works well. All of us have been watching the construction on the huge flyover to westbound Paseo and see it getting closer and closer to completion. We feel a bit of ownership as we have monitored its progress day after day and as we anxiously await its completion.

Contact the Ryans at ryan@abqjournal.com.

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Special shapes are easily the most popular part of Balloon Fiesta, but they haven’t always been a part of the big event.So just how did special shapes come to be, and when did they finally arrive at Fiesta?

Historians at the the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum say it was a small start, quickly blew up to something big.

Curator of Collections at the Balloon Museum, Marilee Mason says one of the first people to get in on special shape balloons was an eccentric British pilot named Lieutenant George Philip Lempriere.

“It’s the ‘Cherry Blossom’ and it was flown by Lieutenant Lempriere, who’s someone that we have very well represented here in the museum,” said Mason. “And as you can see, it’s a perfume bottle.”

The Cherry Blossom balloon debuted in the 1880s. It was a gas balloon and one of the first special shapes ever, according to Mason.

“(It was) made for a company that made perfumes and soaps,” said Mason.

While the first special shapes were built in the 1800s, it would be around 100 years before the special balloons made their way to Albuquerque.

“The first special shapes that came to the Balloon Fiesta were in 1982 and 83,” said Mason.

One of the first special shapes was the “Chicky Boom” balloon, which was an homage to the famous fruit wearing singer, dancer and actress Carmen Miranda.

While the Chicky Boom balloon is still flying at Fiesta in 2014, a different version from the first one is now flying. A miniature replica of the first Chicky Boom balloon hangs in the rafters of the Balloon Museum today.

“The people who had it made thought that balloonists were getting a little too serious and they really needed to lighten up a bit,” said Mason.

That motivation seemed to work. Other early special shapes, like Planters peanut company’s “Mr. P”anut” soon became favorites.

“It really kind of grew exponentially year after year,” said Mason.

By 1989, Fiesta launched the first “Special Shapes Rodeo,” with about a dozen of the specific balloons. The event hasn’t stopped since. Today, the “Rodeo” spans across two days of flights in the morning and balloon glows at night.

The Balloon Museum says because of the success in Albuquerque, special shapes began to grow as an industry.

“Really because it took off so well here, special shapes rodeos are a part of almost every ballooning event around the world,” said Mason.

Some of the most iconic balloons range from Levi’s standing pair of jeans to the piggy banks known as “Little Buck” and “Miss Penny.”

“One of the real favorites here in Albuquerque is Airebelle, the flying cow,” said Mason.

In the last 10 years, Mason says the number of companies manufacturing special shapes has grown from less than a dozen to around 20. Mason says that kind of growth shows the specific balloons are here to stay.

“I think it’s just the delight of seeing these incredible huge balloons that represents so many different things in our lives,” said Mason.

A pilot, who has been flying at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta since 1977, died this week. Friday morning, Gary Tarter’s friends made sure to honor him in true hot air balloon pilot fashion.

It’s easy to get excited about the new balloons and pilots at fiesta, but today was about remembering one of the originals.

Tarter was a pilot who made sure each October–his home was at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta.

“Back in 1975, and I was a fairly new pilot, a guy came to me and was interested in me training him,” said David Dobel.

That guy was Tarter. A friendship was born and so was Tarter’s love for ballooning and balloon fiesta.

“It just became an annual thing.  He loved Albuquerque and he wanted to come back every year,” Dobel said.

During his favorite week of the year, tarter had a fatal heart attack.

His friends made sure his balloon would inflate one last time—an honor to a great pilot, an honor to a great friend.

“We stood around and had our final moments,” said Dobel. “We talked about some of the things we remember about Gary.  It was a fitting closing for us as pilots and friends.”

Pilots often describe flying as soaring through the heavens. They now are permanently joined by their friend Gary Tarter

 

Thursday, two people crawled into a gondola at Balloon Fiesta Park and took off together – scared to death, until death do they part.

“I’m here at Balloon Fiesta to marry the love of my life,” Randy Paul said. Who is that? Brenda McClain, who was also working on a few things Thursday morning.

“I think the idea of getting married at the hot air Balloon Fiesta scares me to death,” Brenda said. “I’m afraid of heights.”

Sharing the gondola with them was a guy by the name of Dave Melton.

“I’m the pilot and best man,” Melton said.

“Four years ago, I was a wounded warrior, and I was on a quest to find myself in humanity again,” Paul said. “I met Dave and Shelly Melton down here on the field, and I’ve been crewing for them for four years now, and they restored my faith in humanity…they taught me to live again”

As Randy started to live again, he met Brenda during a Make A Wish Foundation event.

Today, it was time to work on that wish.

“Brenda, I am so glad that you chose to be my partner in life, and to share our journey together. I will always love you, and honor and cherish you,” Randy said as he read his vows.

“I couldn’t have made a list for God and asked for a better man, because you have succeeded anything I could have ever asked for,” Brenda read back. “I’m so blessed you’re in my life, and I can’t wait to start our lives together.”

Afraid of heights…forever and ever.

morning Fiesta

Special shape balloons launch from Balloon Fiesta Park Thursday morning. (Donn Friedman/Journal)

A Spanish team took first place in the gas balloon race traveling 1,188 miles and remaining airborne for 53 hours and 27 minutes eventually landing west of Findlay, Ky. according to unofficial results from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Thursday morning.

The winning team was Anulfo Gonzalez and Angel Aguirre from Spain.

Second place went to Krzysztof Zapart and Mateusz Rekas from Poland. They flew 941 miles and were in the air for 46 hours 23 minutes. They landed near Perryville, Mo.

Third place went to Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke from U.S. They felew 825 miles and were in the air 40 hours and 17 minutes. They landed west of Searcy, Ak.

Fourth place went to Dr. Heinz-Otto Lausch and Dr. Marion Lausch from Germany. They traveled 679 miles and were in the air for 45 hours and 14 minutes. They landed east of Lincoln, Neb.

In other Fiesta news, Roger MacKecchnie from Tucson was named Pilot of the Day for landing his balloon, Silver Spring, on the grounds of Explore Academy, 3831 Midway Place NE, and staying extra long and giving tethered rides to students and teacher.

A Fiesta spokesman said that when the balloon landed, students and staff rushed out to aid the landing.