Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

'Awesome'.

Byline: Lloyd Jojola Journal Staff Writer

FIESTA 2000

Fans praise fiesta, laud improvements

The world's biggest ballooning event took off in grand fashion Saturday despite gray skies and finger-numbing cold. Strong winds were forecast, threatening to cancel the launch for the first day of the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Instead, spectators witnessed a world-record balloon launch.

"It's fantastic better than I thought it was," said Mary Kolbe, 62, of Arlington, Texas. " 'Awesome' is the word," her husband, Edward, said. Enjoying their first year at the event, Edward had a theory as to why people get up at outrageously early hours to venture out and watch the display.

"It captures a life in the past we wish we could recover again," the 66-year-old man said. "There is a tremendous sense of community out here A million people feel like they are a part of something."

Many people praised how smoothly the event went off and mentioned some park improvements that recently have been made. The park-and-ride shuttle service drew particular praise from users.

It appeared the main snags were the long lines to use the portable toilets and a traffic jam at the north end of the park that forced fiesta officials to stop collecting the $5 parking fee in order to move cars into lots as quickly as they could. …

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