French hot air balloon festival says it’s ‘biggest gathering in the world’

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – This week, a hot air balloon festival in France is getting some attention for their attempt to break a record. What’s getting even more attention is festival organizers saying the French festival is the biggest ballooning event in the world.

The Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons festival currently holds the world record of 433 balloons set in flight, made back in 2017. Fiesta officials say that’s nothing to worry about — Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta is still the world’s premier ballooning event.

“Our friends in France are trying to go for a record and we wish them the best of luck. We know we have the largest event here in Albuquerque,” said Tom Garrity, a representative for Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “Our focus is making sure our event is safe, as theirs is as well. We had 567 hot air balloons last year.”

Last year’s Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque had 567 regular shape balloons and 96 special shape balloons. The mass ascension takes place on a 78-acre launch field — the equivalent of 54 football fields.

“Albuquerque, of course, we have the Albuquerque Box and we have mass ascensions,” said Garrity. “So we always have a way for the viewer or the guest at Fiesta Park to remain engaged in the event just by looking up and really enjoying the event.”

Despite calling itself the largest gathering in the world on its website, the festival in Lorraine, France is much smaller than Albuquerque’s. It takes place at Chambley-Bussières Air Base, an old U.S. base in eastern France. The balloons line up down a two-mile runway.

Fiesta officials say most festival organizers know each other and enjoy each others’ events. Right now, the Director of Operations is even taking flight this week in France.

“Sam Parks has actually been in France for the last several days, participating in the event,” said Garrity. “He actually flew the Balloon Fiesta balloon as part of the flying events in Lorraine, France.”

On Monday, organizers in France had hoped to break a new world record by having 500 hot air balloons take flight in less than one hour. The attempt was not successful. Unlike the Balloon Fiesta, the Grand Est Mondial festival in France only takes place every two years and will wrap up on Sunday.

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