ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Tens of thousands of spectators swarmed the launch field Saturday for the first mass ascension of the 44th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The nine-day event kicked off at dawn. More than 500 balloons representing dozens of states and nearly 20 different countries are registered this year.
Organizers say it's one of the most photographed events in the world.
Shelby Burby of Michigan traveled to the fiesta with family members for her father's 80th birthday and they were planning to lift off early Saturday. She described seeing the balloons lift off at sunrise as gorgeous.
A combination of factors makes Albuquerque the perfect place for the fiesta: typically clear skies, cool mornings and wind patterns at various elevations that help keep the balloons aloft over the city.