How One Man’s Vision Shaped the October Sky

November 18, 2021

Briefs, News

By: Gavin Lujan

This fall, the Balloon Fiesta kicked off on October 2nd, following a year-long hiatus after the event was postponed due to COVID-19. Around 866,000 attendees came to the Fiesta over a period of 9 days after much anticipation.

This year also brought some changes to the way guests interacted at the fiesta due to COVID-19. Seating arrangements were kept outside, hand sanitizer was made widely available across the park, cashless options for payment were provided, and several other events were canceled. The Music Fiesta and Balloon Discovery center were also among the canceled events due to proximity reasons.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Fiesta became a staple of Albuquerque when the first event was held in 1972 at the Coronado Center parking lot as a competition. This competition of 13 balloons gathered around 20,000 attendees and High-Watt, a popular radio station of the time, sponsored Sid Cutter to see how many balloons he could put up.

Cutter was a ballooning fanatic and was the main driving force behind the Fiesta in its early years, being the first resident in New Mexico to own a hot air balloon. The following year in 1973 around 138 balloons could be seen in the sky before the event was moved to a field that was previously owned by Simms on the north side of Albuquerque a year later.

Sometime after, Sid Cutter and Tom Rutherford, co-founder of the Balloon Fiesta, turned control of the event over to the city, and the nonprofit Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Inc. was established to guide the future of the fiesta. Since then, the event has become a staple for the area, lending a huge economic boost as well as a prominent feature in the culture of Albuquerque.

There are common issues faced during the fiesta, such as instances of balloons being caught on power lines, resulting in injuries and power outages for some parts of the city. This year also saw a few cases of vandalism with random individuals making cuts into the sides of balloon envelopes.

“It starts it off a hard note. But it’s gotten better. They got the balloons repaired, they’re back in the air. Everybody’s up and having a really good time right now,” said Sean Eakin, a new balloon pilot, in response to the vandalism. “It will absolutely not ruin the week, we will drive on.” 

The Balloon Fiesta is expected to kick off again on October 1st, 2022, which will mark its 50th anniversary since the first event in 1972. Despite the challenges faced during this year and the years before, 

About Gavin Lujan
Gavin Lujan is a journalistic writer who specializes in national, and local events for the Catalyst newspaper.

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One Comment on “How One Man’s Vision Shaped the October Sky”

  1. MsColetha Says:

    I went this morning. I had a great, safe, clean time! I am dog tired though, happily! Great job everyone who worked so hard to make this festival a wonderful experience!


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