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ALBUQUERQUE BALLOON FIESTA by John K. Finley and brought to you by the products at TheWildGrizzly.com

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I have been a professional photographer specializing in nature and up close wildlife photography for the past thirty years. I have enjoyed traveling and conducting photography seminars, workshops and tours throughout North America.

Imagine being able to photograph normally unapproachable wildlife in “up close, very close” locations. Past photographic tour participants have coined my photographic trips as “Adrenalin Pumpers”.

I have enjoyed every minute of my time visiting the raw beauty and excitement of the great North American backcountry and wilderness.


Every October, in New Mexico, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held and is booked as the “World’s Premier Balloon Event.”It certainly lives up to its reputation.The annual Balloon event is a must do for everyone, whether you are a photographer or not.The Fiesta remains for nine wonderful days in early October at the Albuquerque Balloon Park.

To experience the Fiesta one must be up and out of bed at 4:00 AM, dress warmly and plan to arrive at the Park by 5:00 and on the field by 5:30 AM.You will find yourself surrounded by hundreds of fellow balloon enthusiast.Walk out into the field where you will experience a stirring, balloons are being rolled out in the darkness, fans begin to inflate the mammoth beauties.In the blackness you can hear them rise upward but are still tied to the earth, as they fill with hot air.

Suddenly music is playing, stirring music, and one of the balloonist fire their burners, lighting the beautiful colors of the balloon.Then a second balloon lights up, a third and hundreds of people crowded around you are cheering.The colorful glow of these monsters is spectacular.Soon another, and another, all firing their burners in unison.A loud horn sounds and ten balloons all fire together.They stand high above your head and in the light you realize you are surrounded, not by hundreds but thousands of people all looking up and cheering.The noise is deafening.The colors against the night sky are remarkable.Soon the horn sounds again and all ten balloons lift off, upward into the night sky.The crowd roars.

This is the Dawn Patrol which allows the other balloonist to understand the wind speeds and wind direction at different altitudes.The crowd is quiet now as they watch the Dawn Patrol drift off into the night with a marvelous burst of light every time they fire the burners.

As the clock arrives at about 7:15 AM, and the sun begins to peak over the Sandia Mountains which run along the east side of Albuquerque, the Balloon traffic police know with affection as Zebras, because of their black and white outfits, guide the launch.When we say launch, we mean launch.This is the Mass Ascension.The crowd is not as loud as earlier.They do not know where to look first, the huge balloons are rising in every direction, at least 500 of them, the spectacle is difficult to view, where do you look, where do you go, there are balloons lifting off in all directions.The colors are magnificent, the balloons in all shapes and sizes.I do not have the words to express the excitement.Perhaps my granddaughter who is not quite 2 years old expresses it best, she merely points her hand and finger upward and smiles.



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