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

We would like to welcome you to the Ballooning Capital of the World web site.  The Ballooning Capital is located in the greater Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA area including area communities like Rio Rancho.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta  is the world’s largest hot air balloon festival and takes place each October.  During the balloon festival you will see literally hundreds of balloons.  The event is considered to be the most photographed event in the world.  Guests of the event are allowed to mingle amongst the balloons and possibly even to help the crews.

There are more resident hot air balloonists in the local area than anywhere else in the world.  The ideal conditions and the growth of the sport have attracted many people to the Albuquerque area.  Hardly a day goes by without a balloon launch, weather permitting.

Albuquerque has a unique climatological feature called the “box”.  The Sandia Mountain to the east blocks the sun from heating the ground, and as a result, the air near the ground is cooler and flows to the south, and 600-700 feet up, the warmer air flows to the north, allowing the balloon pilot to launch and land in nearly the same spot, if not in fact, the same spot.

Another great activity is called balloon glow.  This is the glow from the balloon when the hot propane-powered flames light up the balloon, and because of the balloon’s size, can be seen from a long distance.  Several times during the year there are actual balloon glow events during which the balloons are on display, but aren’t launched.

This web site has been created to tell the world about what is going on here and we welcome your comments and pictures.   Our host is a photographer so there will be many unique photos not found elsewhere plus photos contributed by other photographers.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you back again!