August 22 – The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is often touted as the world’s largest hot air balloon event.
And now it’s official – once again.
Guinness World Records recently certified that the fiesta was the site of the “greatest balloon mass ascent” of 524 balloons, which took place on October 6, 2019, in a mass ascension Sunday as part of the 48th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, fiesta said spokesman Tom Garrity.
Albuquerque broke the record for Lorraine, France, where 408 balloons were launched on July 31, 2013, as part of the Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons event, which takes place every two years, Garrity said.
Prior to 2019, the fiesta held the Guinness Record for the greatest mass ascent in 2010 with 329 balloons, and again in 2011 with 345.
“What an honor and what a great title to have for this already spectacular event,” said fiesta president Matt Guthrie.
Ray Bair, a pilot for 35 years, flew his Kaleidoscope balloon on this Sunday mass climb and remembers it well.
âThe weekend started off a bit tough,â he said. “… But Sunday came, and it was beautiful. There was a little box wind, but the winds were slow enough that the balloons were kind of hanging in the air, giving us a chance to see what was going on on the ground while still being able to see everyone flying around you. “
Technically, but not officially, the biggest mass ascension in history occurred during the 2000 Balloon Fiesta, when 1,009 hot air balloons were launched, fiesta executive director Paul Smith said. Unfortunately, those responsible for the fiesta did not file any documents with Guinness World Records.
Fiesta officials then decided that “Albuquerque should really be home to this type of world record, so we began the process of learning about documenting the launches,” a laborious and complex endeavor that resulted in world records in 2010 and 2011, Smith said.
After France won this world record in 2013, fiesta makers refocused their energies on pursuing world records and focused on making the fiesta “the best balloon event in the world,” said Smith.
But then the pandemic gripped New Mexico and the 2020 Balloon Fiesta was put on hold. âWe were thinking of things we could do to promote the event, Albuquerque and New Mexico, so we started digging up the documents to see if we could set the world record based solely on the documentation of the event. “said Garrity.
He contacted the folks at Guinness, and fiesta officials began collecting information to properly document the case using updated Guinness criteria, which include photographs and video of the launch, and the collection of a âlaunch slipâ from each pilot before the balloons take off. .
Sam Parks, the fiesta’s director of operations, said the Guinness World Record had special meaning for him.
“This is a testament to the professionalism and dedication to safety of the launch manager, safety officers, balloon fitter and anyone involved in facilitating a 524 balloon ascent in a morning session,” did he declare.
Because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon event in the world, Parks said, “it makes sense that every now and then we also hold the record for the most balloons in a massive ascent.”
The Guinness accolade is also a source of pride for the city of Albuquerque, said Shelle Sanchez, director of the city’s Department of Arts and Culture.
âBalloon Fiesta in October and the hot air balloons in our Albuquerque skies year-round are now part of our city’s visual and cultural landscape,â she said. “A blue sky filled with hundreds of balloons is magical and awe-inspiring every time. It seems natural and obvious that the Balloon Fiesta, and by extension our city, hold this exciting record of balloons in the sky.”