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The 42nd annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held from October 5 to 13. The event included 554 registered balloon teams, with 97 special shape balloons and five gas balloons. The participants represented 18 countries from around the world and 35 U.S. states.
An estimated 856,000 people attended the nine-day event, a significant increase over last year that is attributed to good weather and the introduction of the Music Fiesta, a country music concert featuring several big names on the last Saturday of the Balloon Fiesta. Film Fest winners were announced after the concert, with first prize going to the University of New Mexico.
Five teams, all Americans, participated in the America’s Challenge Gas Race, in which the team that travels the farthest distance wins. The winning team from New Mexico traveled 1,425.87 miles. A $10,000 prize was awarded in the hot air overall competition.
The Fiesta began as a gathering of 13 hot air balloons in 1972 and has grown into the largest balloon event in the world. Gas balloons began participating in 1981. In 1993, the Balloon Fiesta hosted the 37th Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, the world’s most prestigious gas ballooning event. In 1994, it held the 8th World Gas Balloon Championship. The following year, Mark Sullivan, winner of the Montgolfier Diplome, one of ballooning’s top honors, founded the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race. The Balloon Fiesta hosted the Coupe Aeronautique again in 1999.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held for nine days in early October at Balloon Fiesta Park. The 43rd event will be held from October 4 to 12, 2014.