ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The first Balloon Fiesta was held in what is now the Coronado Mall's parking lot back in 1972. Just 13 balloons showed but at the time that was the largest ballooning event the country had ever seen.
Twenty thousand people showed up to the one day event that also marked KKOB radio's 50th birthday. The brain child of one man, ballooning legend Sid Cutter, who spoke about those early days on the Fiesta's 30th birthday.
"We had to teach ourselves, luckily the citizens of Albuquerque are pretty tolerant, cause we really messed up a lot," said Cutter.
He died last year in his sleep after a battle with cancer. Cutter pushed and won the rights to have the first world championships in 1973.
"Right from the very beginning it was a first class event and I want my husband to be remembered for that," said Jewel Cutter, Sid's wife.
She wasn't there for the first take off -but her love story with Sid is wrapped up in ballooning.
"It was in 1977 it was during the Fiesta, i met him a week before Fiesta, and my first ride was in the Fiesta on Simms Field in 1977."
As the years went on the two ran their own ballooning company and spent every year on the Fiesta Field.
"My favorite spot is to be on the field in the middle where all the balloons are getting ready to inflate for mass ascension because it has sort of a mystical magical affect," said Jewel Cutter.
Cutter says she's proud of how majestic the Fiesta has become over the years. Moving from that small parking lot to the fair grounds and finally the Fiesta Field we know today.
Going from 13 balloons to more than a thousand a decade ago. Dotting the skyline with the traditional shapes -and then the special shapes starting in the late 70's.
And adding events from balloon glows to the America's challenge gas balloon races. But, most of all, she's proud of how Sid's legacy lives on.
"I think the event took on Sid's personality or vice versa," said Cutter. "He was flamboyant he was energetic was charming."
She hopes no one forgets all the people who have made the event what it is today and continues to poor their heart and soul into those nine days in October that have helped put Albuquerque on the map.
"There are over 1000 volunteers out there and the fiesta wouldn't run without that," said Cutter.
She knows Sid never forgot their hard work, and that he's still watching.
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