This was just supposed to be a birthday trip to see a world-renowned spectacle that her boyfriend, Jordan, had seen before and thought she’d enjoy. Or so Bianca thought.
As Dawn Patrol streamed up and over the festival fields, Jordan led her to a statue of the man who started it all, Sid Cutter, where he had arranged, unbeknownst to her, to meet for a “portrait session”.
I approached the couple, claiming to be a photographer for the Balloon Fiesta (a little white lie). “I’m looking for a couple just like yourselves to pose for marketing purposes“, I insinuated. Despite only getting 3 hours sleep following their drive in the day before from their Dallas suburb home, they were game.
As the crew awaited the Green Flag to inflate, I posed photos of the couple watching in wonder as the field behind them and the skies above them grew thick with balloons of all colors, shapes and sizes.
Finally, Buzz waved us over where we took off our shoes and stepped into the ballroom-sized envelope of checker-patterned nylon and polyester. I posed the couple for a series of “promotional photos”. And once I told Jordan “I’ve got it! Thanks!”, he removed a ring box from his pocket and took a knee in front of his shocked girlfriend.
There was an ecstatic yes and a large round of applause from the gathered crew and friends.
And that’s how Jordan and Bianca became engaged on the opening day of the 51st annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – inside of a Hot Air Balloon!
I led them to the opposite end of the field where Buzz Biernacki and his crew were preparing to take their first flight of the 51st annual Balloon Fiesta
About the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
From a small gathering of 13 balloons in 1972, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has grown to become the largest balloon event in the world. Held each year during the first week in October, the Balloon Fiesta now features about 600 balloons and 700 pilots.
The first gathering of 13 balloons in 1972 was held in the parking lot of Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque. The following year, 13 countries took part in the “First World Hot Air Balloon Championship”, the world’s largest ballooning event, held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. By 1978 Albuquerque was playing host to 273 entries. The number of balloons steadily increased, with 600 in 1988 and 903 balloons in 1999. The organizers of the Balloon Fiesta registered more than 1000 balloons in the year 2000.
In 2022, The Ballon Fiesta celebrated its 50th Year. The fiesta, which lasts for nine days, drew nearly 830,000 people from around the world last year. The event has become one of the most photographed events in the world!