ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As preparations for balloon fiesta are heating up, organizers are trying to figure out why Sandia Pueblo is banning balloons from landing on their reservation this year.
In just a few weeks, hundreds of balloons are set to fill the Albuquerque sky. But because of a recent tribal decision if the winds are blowing the wrong way — those balloons may be stuck on the ground.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is New Mexico’s pride and joy.
“They come to Albuquerque to see 550 balloons in the air,” said Scott Appelman, CEO of Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company.
This year, event organizers are expecting another sold out event. However, about a month ago, they ran into some turbulence.
“Now, literally almost the whole Northern boundary is being challenged or being blocked off,” said Appelman.
Sandia Pueblo officials let event organizers know, balloons will not be allowed to land on any of the reservation’s 20,000 acres.
“They are concerned spectators may get on the railroad tracks which are adjacent to that,” said Paul Smith, Balloon Fiesta Executive Director.
Balloon pilots are worried this sudden restriction could ground balloons on some days.
“If there are circumstances or times the wind will be blowing slowly towards the North in that case we won’t be able to launch balloons from Balloon Fiesta Park,” said Smith.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Sandia Pueblo officials, but they have not returned our calls. Fiesta organizers said they have had a great relationship in the past.
“I’ve been flying in Albuquerque for 35 years and have always been able to land on Sandia Pueblo,” said Smith.
And organizers are still optimistic they will be able to negotiate new terms before fiesta starts in less than a month. And hope it will be smooth sailing — just like being up in a hot air balloon.
“The only way I can explain it is like floating on a magic carpet if those actually existed,” said Appelman.
Balloons will only be able to land on Sandia Pueblo in emergency situations. Balloon Fiesta’s first day this year is on Oct. 1 — in less than three weeks.