ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta ignites its burners on Friday, but another big balloon event already is underway in Europe with a New Mexico team currently floating toward Italy.
Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis of Albuquerque launched from Bristol, England, on Saturday and currently are in sixth place is the Gordon Bennett 2010 International Gas Balloon Race.
A live tracking map on the race website shows the 20 balloons headed south across the English Channel into France before turning eastward over the Mediterranean. On Monday afternoon the Swiss team of Kurt Frieden and Pascal Witpraechtiger were far in the lead having crossed Italy and the Adriatic Sea and drifted back over the European mainland above Serbia.
Meanwhile the countdown is underway in Albuquerque where vendors are busy setting up for the thousands of spectators expected at Balloon Fiesta Park. Five hundred hot-air and gas balloons--90 of them special shapes--are registered for the annual fiesta that begins Saturday and continues through Oct. 10.
The 650 pilots with their support crews representing 17 countries and 39 states are arriving, and several major hotels contacted Monday said they are near or at capacity for the coming weekend.
A Balloon Fiesta schedule and other information can be found in the KRQE.com Local Guide .
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John Smith with your forecast and Kim Vallez with your afternoon headlines.
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