USA TODAY - Darth Vader, an Angry Bird, Flying Elvis, the Purple People Eater-these special shape balloons filled Albuquerque's already colorful skies Oct. 5 to 13 during the 42nd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The world's largest ballooning event sees more than 550 hot air balloons, including more than 90 special shapes, representing more than 18 countries take to the wild turquoise yonder with the Sandía Mountains as a backdrop. Albuquerque's population swells by 500,000 visitors enjoying the world's most-photographed event.
The most spectacular events are the weekends' mass ascensions, when all balloons lift off in waves. Balloon Glows begin at dusk and see hundreds of tethered balloons illuminate their envelopes with flicks of their gas burners.
Ballooning mornings start early, with inflations beginning at 5:45 a.m. Visitors explore the 78-acre launch field as fans drone and propane burners roar, filling the envelopes with hot air. Zebras-easily identified field officials dressed in black-and-white referee attire and fun zebra motifs-direct launches to the cheers of thousands.
Weekend mornings see mass ascensions of all balloons, followed at 5 p.m. with evening balloon glows and fireworks. The Wednesday morning balloon glow begins at 6:30 a.m., followed by a mass launch of balloons representing 18 nations. On Thursday and Friday mornings only special shapes launch, and those evenings all 97 special shapes inflate again for the Special Shape Glowdeo.
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