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Albuquerque balloon fiesta postponed because of coronavirus concerns

First year since 1972 that festival won’t be held
Hot air balloons are inflated during the 2019 annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Organizers announced the 2020 festival would be postponed to 2021.

FARMINGTON – The world’s largest balloon fiesta has joined the growing list of canceled or postponed events as a result of coronavirus concerns.

The 49th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, originally scheduled for October, will be postponed an entire year to Oct. 2-10, 2021, the board of directors announced Monday afternoon.

“The safety of our pilots, guests, sponsors, staff and volunteers has always been our top concern, and in the wake of COVID-19 and its continued impacts, we must stay dedicated to upholding that commitment,” said Matt Guthrie, president of the board in a statement.

This will be the first year since 1972 that the event will not be held.

People who have made reservations, bought tickets and RV spaces can use those for the event in 2021. If unable to attend next year, the board directs people to its website for possible refunds.

The festival is considered the largest in the world. Last year’s event drew 588 balloons from across the United States and from 17 countries. More than 866,000 visitors attended during the nine-day event and brought in an estimated $186.82 million to the Albuquerque metro area.

The board of directors said it knew there was an entire community, city and state invested in the event but did not see a way forward to holding this year’s event with so many unknowns.

“Without a clear understanding of the status of this virus or the applicable New Mexico Public Health Order this October, we can’t proceed with plans that could put anyone working at or attending Balloon Fiesta at risk,” Guthrie said.

The board estimates it would have hosted more than 600 pilots, managed 1,657 RV reservations, coordinated hundreds of sponsors, worked with more than 1,000 volunteers and had ordered 230,000 pieces of merchandise.

Before canceling this year’s event, the board considered different contingency plans, like limiting the number of guests and pilots that could attend or having a cyber balloon festival, where the launch of the balloons would be livestreamed with no guests in attendance.

Ultimately, the board decided to postpone the event to 2021.

“This is certainly a setback, but we will remain committed to making this the best and brightest event in the world and can’t wait to see Balloon Fiesta park once again filled with balloons and smiling faces,” the board said.

The balloon festival joins a growing list of canceled 2020 events, including Animas River Days in Durango and Riverfest in Farmington.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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