International balloon fiesta to be focus of new exhibition | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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International balloon fiesta to be focus of new exhibition

Marilee Schmit Nason, curator at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, talks about two rare posters from the first balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a news conference Thursday, March 5, 2020. Museum officials are planning for a new permanent exhibition that will focus on the annual nine-day international balloon fiesta. The fiesta will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
March 05, 2020 - 3:40 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A colorful spectacle often described as one of the world's most photographed events will celebrate its 50th year in 2021 so organizers of the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and officials at the international balloon museum are wasting no time planning for the celebration.

They announced Thursday that they have already amassed $400,000 through donations and state and local funds. They also will be kicking off a campaign to raise significantly more money over the next year to pay for a new permanent exhibition dedicated to telling the story of how New Mexico's largest city became the ballooning capital of the world.

It will feature historical artifacts, virtual experiences, scale models, storytelling and an interactive digital timeline that will trace the fiesta from its humble beginnings in a shopping mall parking lot in 1972.

Today, the nine-day event in October draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots and has an economic impact of nearly $187 million for the Albuquerque area. Millions more are funneled to the state and local governments through tax revenues that result from related spending and lodging.

The balloon museum is already packed with history, charting the progression of the earliest flights to record-breaking attempts and other airborne missions to remote parts of the globe. It also highlights the science, technology and weather forecasting behind ballooning.

It was time, officials said, to put together a permanent exhibit that weaves together the art, history and culture that has been inspired by the yearly gathering.

It will be a daunting — but fun — task for museum officials as they have decades of material to pour over, countless stories to collect and images to curate.

Marilee Schmit Nason, curator of collections at the balloon museum, brought out some of the programs and pins from past fiestas along with a jacket that then-Gov. Bruce King wore during the 20th fiesta back in 1991 and the plaque awarded to the pilot who won the first world championship hosted at the fiesta in 1973.

Among the other prize possessions are two posters that fiesta founder Sid Cutter had printed to advertise the inaugural event. They feature Warner Bros. characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.

“Who doesn’t love these iconic posters. They’re just incredible,” said Schmit Nason, who got hooked on ballooning in college after seeing some drift over campus one morning.

She got her first chance to fly in the late '70s after volunteering to crew for an out-of-town team.

“I flew in a mass ascension and it was the neatest thing," she said. "When I was in the balloon, I thought this is like being in one of those lava lamps — they’re coming up at one speed and going down at another.”

As part of the exhibition effort, officials are asking for community members for five of their favourite family photos from visits to the fiesta over the decades. They will be used in the digital timeline.

Laurie Magovern, the executive director of the Balloon Museum Foundation, was a year old when her family took her to the fiesta. She said it has become part of New Mexico's fabric and a destination for the world's ballooning community.

“There’s nothing else where you see hundreds of thousands of adults with smiles and dropped jaws, laughing and hugging," she said. "Creating that kind of spirit and energy is every unique.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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