As Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta prepares for its 40th event in
2011, it's worth recalling how this great American event got its start.
The first Balloon Fiesta, in 1972, was made up of 13 balloons that launched from the Coronado Center parking lot in Uptown Albuquerque.
The second Balloon Fiesta was held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. The arrival of 138 balloons so taxed the limits of local hotels that Albuquerque residents had to open their homes to pilots and crews.
If only the weather were so cooperative. Believe it or not, weather statistics indicated that February would be an excellent month for flying. But in 1973, it was windy, snowy, and overcast. There were just enough marginal flying days to qualify a U.S. team the first week, and all four flying tasks were completed for the World Championships the second week.
Albuquerque had successfully gathered 15 countries into the world's largest and most celebrated balloon event ever, in the process becoming the hot air balloon capital of the world. Now what?
Cutter, Rutherford and company staged the 1974 Balloon Fiesta, as in 1973 at their own expense, with 115 balloons from 33 states and 7 countries.
World Balloon Championships agreed to host the biannual world championships again in 1975, and committed to holding an annual balloon event. The newly dubbed "International Balloon Fiesta" was destined to continue.