The festival started in 1972 as part of the highlights of the 50th birthday celebration of radio station 770 KOB. Sid Cutter, the first person to own the a hot air balloon in New Mexico, was asked by KOB manager Dick McKee if they could use his new balloons. They agreed to use 19 balloons for the festival, only to limit it to 13 later due to bad weather.
The balloon fiesta peaked in 2000, with 1019 entrants. Due to congestion, the board limited the number of participants down to 750 for the purpose of “quality over quantity”. Eventually, they reduced the entrants again to 600 in 2009 due to landing space limits.
More than 700,000 spectators visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every year. It’s no wonder then that this festival is also one of the most photographed events in the world, according to Albuquerque.
Video: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015