Balloon Festival wows Albuquerque

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The 2009 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 'Mass Happiness', took place between 3–11 October 2009, bringing hot air balloonists and tourists from around the globe to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the US.

The 38th annual Balloon Fiesta featured 550 registered hot air and gas balloons and 650 balloon pilots representing 17 countries and 37 states. Every October, during these nine days, more than 800, 000 spectators visit the world–renowned event. During the festival, the sky is always filled with colour as hundreds of balloons float over Albuquerque making it one of the most photographed events in the world. For balloon pilots worldwide, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a pilgrimage. Hundreds of balloons launch from 72 grass–covered acres each morning. Visitors and locals enjoy the spectacle of Mass Ascensions, Balloon Glows, AfterGlow fireworks, and hot air and gas balloon competitions. From fire engines to bumble bees and skunks to flying cows, the special shape balloons delight onlookers of all ages, especially during the Special Shape Rodeos. Balloon Fiesta attendees could also check out professional chainsaw carvers creating beautiful art out of wood, and hundreds of booths offering arts and crafts from across the country and an array of fantastic festival food and local cuisine including a variety of New Mexican breakfast burritos. Pilots from around the world thrive in Albuquerque's unique autumn weather taking advantage of the Albuquerque Box, a combination of upper and lower level winds created by the Rio Grande Valley and enhanced by the Sandia Mountains. The 'Box' enables balloonists to sometimes backtrack their flight path and land close to their launch site, which is unlikely in most other places due to the lack of ability to steer a balloon. Albuquerque buzzes with activity throughout the week of Balloon Fiesta with arts and crafts shows, special exhibits, a Santero market in Old Town, the Lighter Than Air Fair at the Balloon Museum.

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