Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Where is Albuquerque?
Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, was founded in 1706. It’s located on the banks of the Rio Grande, along Route 66, the highway which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.
Albuquerque was named in honor of Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enríquez de Cabrera, viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660, and Duke of Alburquerque, a town in Spain.
What is the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta?
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival, held in October, featuring ascensions of hot air and gas balloons. The Fiesta began in 1972 as part of the activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of a local radio station.
In 1972, 13 balloons participated in the event. The largest number of balloons to participate in a given year was 1019 in 2000. The maximum number of participants was capped at 600 in 2009. This was due to the growth of the city and the loss of possible landing sites for the balloons.
Ballooning had its Origins in France
Two brothers, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740-1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745-1799) invented the hot air balloon. They were the first to have a successful manned ascent of a balloon on November 21, 1783. Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier was the pilot.
A physicist named Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823) invented the gas balloon. Two engineers, brothers Anne-Jean Robert (1758-1820) and Nicolas-Louis Robert (1760-1830) built the balloon for him. The Charles / Robert brothers balloon made its first flight in August 1783, but it didn’t carry any passengers. The first manned flight of a gas balloon took place on December 1, 1783—10 days after the Montgolfier brothers' hot air balloon flight.
Envelopes and Gondolas
The envelope is the part of the balloon which holds the hot air or gas. The gondola or basket is the part of the balloon which holds the passengers.
Hot Air vs Gas Balloons
Hot air rises. If the air inside the envelope is heated, its molecules will expand. The air will be lighter than the air outside the balloon. If there is enough hot air, the envelope (balloon) and the gondola (with its passengers in the basket) will be lifted off the ground. Pilots control their ascent by heating more air. They control their descent by releasing some air through vents located on the envelope.
Gas balloons ascend because the gas inside the envelope is lighter than the air outside the balloon. Balloon pilots in the United States use helium or hydrogen, both lighter-than-air gases, to fill the envelopes. The gas is pumped into the balloons, and since the gas is lighter (less dense) than the surrounding air, the balloon and the gondola, with its passengers onboard, will be lifted off the ground. Pilots of gas balloons ascend by dropping ballast—usually sand or water. They descend by releasing some of the gas in the envelope through a vent in the top of the balloon.
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Ballooning is Expensive
Balloons cost between $20,000 and $30,000. Propane is used in the burner which heats the air inside a hot air balloon. The propane costs $30 to $40. A tank of propane contains enough gas for a flight lasting an hour or two.
The amount of helium needed to fill the envelope for a two- to three-day flight costs a minimum of $5000. The same amount of hydrogen costs $1000.
Special Shape Balloons
Special shape balloons are the most popular type of balloon found at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta or any other balloon fiesta or air show. Some are used for advertising purposes, but some are used merely for fun.
Tethered Balloon Rides
Tethered balloon rides are sometimes offered as a means of getting people to attend a special event. The Great Park in Orange County, California features a tethered helium balloon ride on a permanent basis.
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