Annual hot air balloon festival draws global audience to US

  • The flame of a gas burner helps inflate a hot air balloon as part of a re-enactment of the first Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 1972 during a special event at Coronado Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. Hundreds of hot air balloons will be lifting off over the nine-day annual fiesta that has drawn pilots and spectators from across the globe for 50 years. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of hot air balloons lifted off Saturday, marking the start of an annual fiesta that has drawn pilots and spectators from across the globe to New Mexico’s high desert for 50 years now. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world. It has become an economic driver for the state’s largest city and a rare — and colorful — opportunity for enthusiasts to gather. Three of the original pilots who participated in the first fiesta in 1972 are among this year’s attendees.