ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque students got to be the first ones to see hot air balloons go up for the 50th anniversary of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Albuquerque Aloft allows students to see a hot air balloon up close and talk to pilots and crews the Friday before Balloon Fiesta kicks off.

More than 200 pilots are estimated to have participated at more than 100 Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho schools. The balloon Breezy Rider and its crew visited Kit Carson Elementary School. Young students got to help set up the tarp and balloon before it began inflating.

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Diana Schroen and her husband, pilot Tom Fisher have been heading up their crew for 17 years. “I love to see the kids, and they get so excited,” Schroen said. “But for a lot of them, this is as close as they’re going to get to a balloon, especially in these Title I schools, and with families that have a lot of kids, it gets quite expensive to go up to Fiesta, so we try to make it as entertaining as we can.”

Fifth grader Rogelio said he likes the event because he sees balloons up close. “It brings people together watching the balloons,” he said.

Seventh grader Bruno, who was visiting campus to attend the event, talked about his favorite part of Balloon Fiesta. “I like when you stand next to the balloons, and he turns on the flames, and it gets warm,” Bruno said.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1, and runs through Oct. 9. KRQE News 13 will provide daily coverage on the event online.