Albuquerque's annual hot air balloon fiesta continues to grow after its modest start 51 years ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began modestly in 1972 with 13 hot air balloons.

More than a half-century later, the nine-day event held every October is one of the most photographed events in the world and continues to draw pilots and spectators from across the globe to New Mexico’s high desert.

Fiesta organizers on Monday said this year’s event had 546 registered hot air balloons, 107 registered special shape balloons, 629 registered pilots, more than 968,000 guest visits and over 771,000 views on Balloon Fiesta Live.

Sixteen countries were represented this year including Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, France, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Ukraine.

The 52nd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is scheduled for Oct. 5-13, 2024.