Marion County Sheriff’s Office

You’re going to think we’re full of “hot air” when you read this, but for the first time in our 175 years of existence, we recovered a stolen hot air balloon! We received word from the Bloomington Police Department in Indiana last night that a hot air balloon stolen out of their jurisdiction was just spotted at The Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival being held at the Florida Horse Park. MCSO deputies responded and confirmed that it was indeed the stolen balloon in question (pictured below). The owner didn’t want to press charges and just wanted his hot air balloon back. The balloon was towed and will be returned to its proper owner. This just proves that you never know what the MCSO is going to be called out to next…

Stolen Hot Air Balloon
Stolen Hot Air Balloon

A hot air balloon that was stolen in Indiana turned up at a festival in Florida. Deputies from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from the Bloomington Police Department that the balloon was spotted at the Villages Hot Air Balloon Festival which was being held at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala.

Deputies had no trouble finding the balloon and had it towed away so it can be returned to its owner, who told officials he does not wish to press charges against whoever stole it.

In a Facebook post about the incident, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says it was the first time in the department’s 175 year history that they have ever dealt with a stolen hot air balloon.

You’re going to think we’re full of “hot air” when you read this, but for the first time in our 175 years of existence, we recovered a stolen hot air balloon!
Authorities did not release the identity of the person who allegedly stole the hot air balloon.

Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office

Click this Groupon Banner to locate the hot air balloon ride discount!

What You’ll Get – $299.00 service for $159!!!

After purchasing this deal, you will need to visit the website listed on your voucher to complete redemption.

Shared Hot Air Balloon Ride for One with Champagne Toast
The Fine Print
Promotional value expires Jan 1, 2019. Amount paid never expires. Reservation required. Limit 1 per person, may buy 1 additional as gift. Must sign waiver. Weight limit: 250lb per person. Minimum height: 48 inches; 7 years old or older. Champagne toast included; 2-3 hour experience/1 hour in the air. One voucher per person required. Merchant is solely responsible to purchasers for the care and quality of the advertised goods and services.

About Albuquerque Balloon Rides
Imagine floating 1,000 feet above Albuquerque. Below, the Rio Grande flows through a verdant landscape of willow shrubs and cottonwood trees, while to the east, the Sandia Mountains glow orange from the sunlight. Albuquerque Balloon Rides creates remarkable experiences like these, offering hot-air balloon rides throughout the Albuquerque region and beyond.

“…The location is surreal in itself and when you add scores of colorful flying balloons, you have the White Sands Balloon Invitational at White Sands National Monument”

The annual White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational always takes place on a weekend in September.

The Hot Air Balloon Invitational grows more and more popular each year.

The location is surreal in itself and when you add scores of colorful flying balloons, you have the White Sands Balloon Invitational at White Sands National Monument and the Alamogordo Balloon Park. There’s also a balloon glow held each night at Alamogordo High School.

The event begins right at sunrise and lasts until the balloons come down, usually 3 hours. There is a Balloon Glow at our local High School, Alamogordo High School, that takes place 30 minutes after sundown, usually 7:30 pm. Admission for the Balloon Glow is FREE.

The morning lift-offs you can reach best by going to White Sands National Monument. You have to take your own vehicle. White Sands Blvd., in Alamogordo, head South and follow the road when it turns to Hwy 70. This will lead you to White Sands National Monument.

Admittance to the balloon glow is free, while the only charge to attend the event at White Sands National Monument is the normal admittance fee ($3 per person ages 17 and older).

This popular event coincides with the Tularosa Basin Wine and Music Fest, in Alameda Park in Alamogordo, with live music, New Mexico wine samples, artists and vendors, as well as food and fun. Visit

For More Information

DOSWELL, Va. — The body of one occupant of a hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed has been recovered and police searched Saturday for two others feared dead, Virginia State Police said.

The three were in a balloon Friday night that witnesses said crashed amid screams for help from the balloon.

The body was found in a heavily wooded area shortly before midnight, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Saturday. The balloon and gondola carrying the pilot and two passengers have not been found, she said.

Because of the time elapsed since the crash about 8 p.m. Friday, the search for two other occupants has shifted from a rescue operation to a mission to recover the remains, Geller said. More searchers were called in Saturday.

Police received eyewitness reports that two occupants either fell or jumped from the burning balloon after it struck the power line.

Carrie Hager-Bradley said she saw the balloon in flames on her way home from the grocery store and heard people yelling, according to WWBT TV.

“They were just screaming for anybody to help them,” the station quoted her as saying. “‘Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I’m going to die. Oh my God, I’m going to die,'” Hager-Bradley said she heard one person screaming.

The crash occurred near the Meadow Event Park in rural Caroline County, where the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival was being held. The area is about 25 miles north of Richmond.

The festival was scheduled to begin officially on Saturday, but was holding a special kickoff event Friday for about 740 people. Organizers canceled the rest of the festival.

Twenty balloonists from the Mid-Atlantic region were to participate in the weekend festival, said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the venue, which also is the site of the State Fair of Virginia.

“It’s just shocking situation for everyone,” said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for Meadow Event Park.

Some hot air balloons landed safely in Debra Ferguson’s yard, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported.

She said one of the men in the balloons pointed up at another still in the air and said he thought it might be in trouble.

“As soon as we looked up, the thing blew up right there,” Ferguson told the newspaper. “All I heard was, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God,’ and all you saw was the top of the balloon still flying, but all of the basket was gone. All of the flames just disappeared. … It was like a match — poof — and then it was gone.”

Caroline County resident Paula Dustin said she and her family and a friend were watching the balloons inflate and take off when they saw one in the distance that appeared to be in distress.

“We saw a glow, and you could tell the bottom of the balloon was in flames,” Dustin was quoted by the newspaper as saying.


American Girl’s “Saige Paints the Sky” movie will be released on DVD starting July 2nd. The movie was filmed around Albuquerque and New Mexico and showcases the beautiful scenery of the state while telling Saige’s story. You can see it on Saturday, July 13th at 8/7c on NBC or pick up the DVD for a glimpse of New Mexico’s scenic beauty.

American Girl Saige Doll

Enter to win a Saige-inspired trip to Albuquerque

We are thrilled that American Girl’s® Girl of the year, Saige Copeland, calls Albuquerque, New Mexico her home! She loves riding horses on her grandma’s ranch, painting New Mexico’s beautiful scenery and balloon rides above the city, which is known as the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World.

To celebrate, we are sending one lucky girl and her family on a Saige-inspired trip to Albuquerque – plus she’ll get her very own Saige Doll, signed books, a $400 VISA gift card and more!

Plan Your Trip

Plan your own Saige-inspired trip to Albuquerque

We hope many girls and their families will choose to travel to Albuquerque to experience a little taste of what Saige’s story is all about. Visiting families can be inspired by the same types of activities that Saige would enjoy around the city.

Plan your own trip incorporating events and activities inspired by Saige’s love for art, nature and hot air balloons. There are even some Saige-inspired hotel packages to choose from!



Albuquerque featured in “Saige Paints the Sky” movie

American Girl’s “Saige Paints the Sky” movie will be released on DVD starting July 2nd. The movie was filmed around Albuquerque and New Mexico and showcases the beautiful scenery of the state while telling Saige’s story. You can see it on Saturday, July 13th at 8/7c on NBC or pick up the DVD for a glimpse of New Mexico’s scenic beauty.









Putrajaya’s hot air balloon fest


Ready to roll: Event director Izzati Khairudin doing her rounds at the fiesta grounds.

The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013, returns to its Millennium Monument grounds for the fifth consecutive year.

A SEA of colourful, multi-shaped hot air balloons has been dotting the Putrajaya skies recently. The balloons, contoured to the shape of a SIM card, Smurf cartoon character, monkey and elephant, have been “floating” around at the 5th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013, which is currently taking place at the Millennium Monument (Monumen Alaf Baru) in Precinct 2, Putrajaya.

Organised by AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) and the Malaysian Sports Aviation Federation (MSAF), the annual four-day event attracts more than 300,000 visitors. Coordinating and arranging every aspect of the mammoth event is no simple task but it’s something the Khairudin family has been doing since the inception of the fiesta in 2009.

Izzati and Atiqah Khairudin – also known as the “balloon sisters”, were barely out of school when their dad roped them in to help with the event.

“We didn’t have a choice!” they say, laughing. “We had been exposed to balloon rides since we were kids so our father put us to work. We call it forced labour!”

The late fiesta chairman and co-founder Khairudin Abd Rani was an avid hot air balloon enthusiast who got interested in the sport when he was studying in the United Kingdom. A civil engineer, he opted for early retirement and started AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd in 1995 to pursue his passion. He brought in instructors from the UK, licensed five local pilots and offered hot air balloon rides to the public.

Eventually, he decided to organise a hot air balloon meet in Malaysia because there was none at that time. The purpose was to show the different hot air balloons, and to put Malaysia on the ballooning map.

Around 20 balloonists, mostly contacts and friends, were invited to participate and they come from all over the world.

Izzati (left) and Atiqah Khairudin, the hot air balloon sisters.

“Dad chose Putrajaya as the location because there was plenty of empty space to land (the balloons). He would oversee the flying section while I was tasked to look after the events side,” says event director and eldest sibling Izzati, 26. “I was thrown in the deep end and didn’t know what to expect in the first year.”

The ground events include tethered hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, remote control balloon demonstrations, zorbing, car simulators, hamster roll games, archery, wall climbing, paintball and a host of other activities.

When it rains or is too windy, the balloons do not fly for safety reasons. The sisters then have to put up with thousands of irate visitors, some of whom have travelled from different states just to see the balloons.

Assistant event director Atiqah, recalls, “One time, I just stood and cried because I couldn’t take the pressure from the crowd! They kept scolding me and I didn’t know what to do. It’s a challenge to deal with the crowd’s tantrums.”

The tethered hot air balloon rides are also cancelled if the weather is bad. Only 300 tickets are available for sale an hour before the five to seven-minute ride. For RM20 per person, the balloon will be hoisted 50-70 feet off the ground.

“Since we don’t pre-sell the tickets, people start queuing up from as early as 4am. It’s crazy!” says Atiqah, 24.

“In case the weather prohibits the balloons from flying, visitors can ask for a refund as tickets sold cannot be carried forward.”

Sadly, Khairudin passed away unexpectedly after a heart attack last December. The family was shocked as he had just returned from playing a game of tennis. They rallied together to continue where he had left off.

“It’s been hard without dad. He handled all the logistics and we handled all the ground affairs. Thankfully, we have the experience from the past fiestas. My mom has taken over my dad’s role, with the help of dad’s friend Mohammad Sobri Saad, who is the fiesta chairman,” relates Izzati.

Another younger sister Hafizah also helps out with the merchandising while the youngest brother has just gotten involved.

Since mom was a former banker, she doubles up as the financial controller of the fiesta. There is a main team of seven youngsters in the office while during the fiesta, more than 50 helpers are on duty.

A unique hot air balloon called Three Wise Monkeys.

“My little sister is very garang and we can see that she is very capable and manages things well. Don’t mess with her,” chuckles Atiqah.

“We’re also lucky because our team is young, with the average age of 23, and willing to learn.”

The first two years was literally a one-man show for Izzati, an accountancy graduate, as her sisters only came onboard in the third year.

“My dad never really gave advice on how to do something. He expected us to learn by example. We miss his lively presence. He had mentioned a few times that ‘After this, I can rest and you can take over’ but we never thought his demise would be so sudden,” recalls Izzati.

As a tribute to him, the fiesta kicked off with a memorial flight on Thursday. Khairudin would be proud of how he has raised his children. Not only are they pleasant and responsible adults, the sisters are also an enterprising lot. Every Ramadhan, they bake cookies for sale.

Izzati says, “My parents make sure everything we do is well earned. There are no easy paths or short-cuts. We’re very loud and bossy and I’m like the quality controller. If something doesn’t meet my expectation, I’m not happy.”

Atiqah rolls her eyes. “Whether at home or in the office, all we do night and day is talk about ballooning! Dad’s passion has become our passion as well.”

While Izzati confesses to being anal about everything, Atiqah says she’s quite the opposite.

Powering up: Getting ready for lift-off.

“In school, my parents would either be called in because Izzati was receiving some award or I was being disciplined. I’ve gotten better now,” smiles Atiqah.

Izzati just got married last year and now, her hubby is also involved, running the coffee stalls at the fiesta.

The first two days of the fiesta have seen the sisters running around madly at the grounds, armed with constantly ringing smart phones.

Stocks had to be replenished, crowds had to be controlled, unauthorised vendors were crashing the events and the media wanted to speak to them …it’s been sheer madness but the girls have taken it in their stride.

“Four days is more than enough. We cannot do more than that. It’s too much,” says Izzati, letting out a sigh.

The fiesta offers lots of exciting activities that will keep the young ones occupied – from colouring competitions and stage performances by cartoon characters to carnival games and rides.

Since it’s now the school holidays, it’s the perfect time to bring children here.

One of the highlights of the fiesta is the night glow event. The balloons are lined up in the launch field, and are lit up according to music. There’s also a “conductor” to ensure the balloons, music and fire are synchronised. The night culminates in a fireworks display.

By Sunday, the fiesta will be over and after a short respite, the Khairudin sisters will start planning again for the next fiesta, which keeps getting bigger. It’s been months of hard work and sleepless nights.

“Right after this, I’m going for a massage,” declares Atiqah, slumping back into a chair.

“Then, we want to get our balloon pilot’s licence. We’d also like to take the fiesta to other states eventually.”

Izzati adds, “We try to improve every year. We’re toying with the idea of organising a balloon music fest like in the west.”

The 5th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013 takes place till March 31. Admission to the fiesta is free but visitors are encouraged to use the KLIA Transit to Putrajaya as KLIA Transit will be offering a 30% discount on ticket rates during the fiesta. From the Putrajaya station, the public can take the Nadi Putra buses which will ferry them directly to the venue. For more information, log on to

In conjunction with the Friends and Lovers Balloon Rally, the Albuquerque Balloon Museum is offering a breakfast from 6-10am. Tickets include a breakfast buffet, cash bar, admission to the Balloon Museum, entertainment, free shuttle service to Balloon Fiesta Park for the Friends and Lovers Balloon Rally, as well as raffle prizes including a hot air balloon ride and more.


Dates: February 9, 2013
Time: 6-10am
Admission: $30 per person, $5 for children 4-12

Albuquerque Balloon Museum
9201 Balloon Museum Dr NE
Neighborhood: Balloon Fiesta Park/N I-25
Phone: 505-768-6020

Contact Information

Name: Linda Hubley
Department: Balloon Museum
Phone: (505) 768-6020

Physical Address

9201 Balloon Museum NE

Albuquerque NM 87113

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 1293

Albuquerque NM 87103

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!