Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Successful Navigation.(Balloon Fiesta)

Byline: Jane Mahoney

Have a plan before heading to the park

It's dark and cold out there! That might be the first thing that thousands of early risers notice about the New Mexico pre-dawn before they even catch a glimpse of a single hot air balloon at the fiesta park.

The next surprise is the Albuquerque traffic. If you've never attended the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, it's hard even to imagine clogged streets at 5:30 a.m. But turn onto any thoroughfare leading to the balloon park, and you can't miss the stop-and-go scene unless you've been smart enough, of course, to hop aboard an express bus.

The Balloon Fiesta, launching a record 1,000 hot air balloons this year, is expected to draw more than a million spectator visits to the 350-acre field during the nine-day event. The good news is that fiesta officials have had 29 years of practice in accommodating everyone from pilots to tourists.

One thing to keep in mind: All events take place WEATHER PERMITTING. The biggest culprit in keeping balloons from going up is the wind. If you are uncertain, tune in to the local radio stations for up-to-date fiesta information.

Following are a few survival tips to help ease your visit to the fiesta.

Welcome!

GET THERE EARLY: Balloon Fiesta Park opens at 4:30 a.m. on every morning of the fiesta. Early morning is a great time to sip a coffee and watch the Dawn Patrol balloons light up the still-dark skies. The balloon park opens at 3 p.m. for the evening events and closes at 10 p. …

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