ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - A woman who took thousands of dollars from New Mexico artists to showcase and sell their crafts at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year has vanished along with their money.
In just over a month, Balloon Fiesta Park will be jam-packed with visitors from all over the world. It's an attraction many local artists rely on.
It's a world-renowned event that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Albuquerque. And for local artists, it's a chance to set up shop and showcase and sell their one-of-a-kind creations every year.
"When people were wrapping up the 2012 event, they were giving their deposits either in credit card or cash to save a space for the 2013 event," explained Tom Garrity, director of media relations for the Balloon Fiesta.
Amalie Dorn, who runs Artists of New Mexico LLC, rents space from Balloon Fiesta. She in turn, takes thousands in fees from 70 to 80 arts and crafters for booth rentals. It appears she's missing in action.
"All of a sudden about two weeks ago, all communication was cut off," said Garrity.
Vendors say Dorn is not returning phone calls or emails. KRQE News 13 stopped by La Junta Galleria in Bernalillo, her listed place of business, to find it empty and the lights turned off.
There was a hand-written sign on the door reading "La Junta is closed today, sorry for any inconvenience. We will be open Thursday - Mon. this week. Come back to see us soon. Thank you!!"
News 13 called Dorn's office only to learn the number is no longer in service.
A second business in Albuquerque's Old Town connected to Dorn is also empty.
"It's very perplexing to us," said Garrity. Dorn has been running the arts and crafts tent at Balloon Fiesta since 2009, and Garrity said they've never had a problem like this.
"We don't really know what's going on, but when communication was cut off we knew that we needed to step up and help the artisans and crafters who really rely on this event year in, year out," said Garrity.
There's another person listed as a point of contact on the vendor entry forms. News 13 tried contacting her as well but has not heard back.
Because of what's happened, Balloon Fiesta officials are now offering booth rentals to local artists at a lower fee. They're charging $1,000 for a 10-foot by 10-foot booth, which is half the price Dorn charged.
Artisans and crafters can call Jennifer Garcia at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta at (505) 821-1000 to see if space is available.
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