ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's Thursday afternoon, and Old Town is alive.
Crowded tour buses roll through while tourists browse shops around the plaza.
They're here early for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, many drawn in by word of mouth.
"The art you see online is just so gorgeous of the balloon glow and the balloons rising I mean just for the sheer aesthetics of it," said Casey Compernolle, who is visiting from Tucson, Ariz.
"One of the people I work with came out here five years ago, so we came [this year]!" said Shana Coffman from Hot Springs, Ark.
Last year more than 700,000 attended the Balloon Fiesta, and crowds are expected to grow this year.
Those crowds bring plenty of spending cash, and some of those dollars were already being put to good use in Old Town Thursday.
The Old Town Basket & Rug Shop has stocked its store with all sorts of Fiesta-related knickknacks including socks and shot glasses.
Laura Martinez with the shop says the Balloon Fiesta is their equivalent of Christmas, and its strength is what makes or breaks a year. Things are going well so far.
"We are ahead, and we're ahead by about 4 percent compared to this time last year," Martinez said. "That's exciting for us. I think there's potential for doing maybe a double-digit increase."
The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce estimates the Balloon Fiesta injected about $91 million into the local economy last year.
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