ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The totals are in for this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and while organizers say there were record crowds, total attendance was “on average” compared to other Fiesta events. Fiesta says an estimated total of 828,800 people attended the nine-day 2022 event.
“This year, oh my gosh, the entire world showed up here at Albuquerque, and I’m really proud to say that everyone rolled out the red carpet for all these balloonists around the world,” said Sam Parks, Director of Operations for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The 2022 total is higher than 2021’s total event attendance of 783,866 people. However, it is a bit below the 2019 figures. The last Fiesta before the pandemic in 2019 saw 866,414 guests.
In a news conference Friday, Parks attributed the totals to weather. Fiesta was unable to hold any of its evening events at this year’s event.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get any of our evening shows in. Although we did have fireworks and the drone show, we had some music going on. But fortunately, only three out of the nine-morning sessions were canceled due to weather,” said Parks.
Fiesta celebrated its 50th event this year, introducing some new elements like a drone show and a big presence of remote-controlled balloons. The event also aimed to hold some of the largest mass ascensions in its history, with around 648 balloons invited. More than 120 of those were special shapes balloons, and 20 different countries were represented.
Fiesta’s opening weekends brought massive crowds on both Saturday and Sunday. “That first Saturday morning, opening day, we’ll say, is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at Balloon Fiesta Park. All of our parking lots were full; all of our park-and-ride buses were full; I don’t know where we could’ve put another single person!” Parks says.
While organizers planned for record-breaking attempts with RC balloons and the most balloons to participate in a glow, wind and rain changed most of those plans. Organizers canceled this year’s America’s Challenge gas balloon race after Fiesta said, “the weather conditions made it impossible to conduct a safe, competitive race.”
A crowd of thousands was also caught in the event’s first “shelter in place” as a storm cell formed over a Special Shapes Glowdeo event on Fiesta’s Friday night event. Another shelter-in-place followed on Saturday evening’s events.
Balloon Fiesta officials spoke about the success of the new slip ramp near Balloon Fiesta Park: “APD is already giving us a debrief on how that worked, and it was a huge improvement by being able to exit Balloon Fiesta Park and directly go south on I-25 was a game-changer this year,” Parks says.
Officials recognized landowners who participated in the ‘X Marks the Spot’ campaign, which allows balloonists to land on their property. They also discussed ways to expand access for them in the future. “If we don’t have somewhere for these balloons to land, that will hinder balloon fiesta. We want to be able to grow it instead of having it shrink over time and maybe eventually even not exist,” says Brook Bassan, Albuquerque City Councilor for District 4.
The idea of having the city collaborate with businesses to redo their landscaping to allow balloon landings were floated; they even pitched buying more property for this: “There are some properties in Albuquerque that would be really great to be able to purchase and maybe turn into something that we can use year-round for families in the community to enjoy but also be able to use for landing sites,” said Bassan.
Balloon Fiesta officials say there were 1.6 million live impressions from people watching the event online worldwide.