Down Memory Lane
Reprint from the 1991 Balloon Fiesta Souvenir Program.
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 attracts hundreds of thousands of guests to Balloon Fiesta Park to experience a nine-day extravaganza of color and excitement, celebrating the world's oldest aviation sport, ballooning. The event not only features hot air balloons but also the prestigious gas balloons.
Many Balloon Fiesta oldtimers talk about the year there were two Fiestas. It was 1975.
The 1974 Balloon Fiesta had been held in February 1974. Sid Cutter realized that February-April were bad months to conduct the Balloon Fiesta because of the possibility of bad weather. The next year, the Balloon Fiesta/World Championship was scheduled to be conducted in October rather than February.
Organizers were concerned that the public would lose interest in ballooning in the interim, since it would be 20 months between the 3rd Balloon Fiesta (February 1974) and the 4th Balloon Fiesta (October 1975). So the local balloon club decided to conduct a different balloon event in February 1975 - 12 months after the 3rd Balloon Fiesta.
As a result, in 1975 there were two balloon events in Albuquerque - the AAAA event in February and the Balloon Fiesta/World Championship in October.
In February of 1975, about 40 balloons from 8 states gathered at the Fairgrounds to hold the first Cloudbouncer Rally, or Fiesta "3-1/2". This locally-inspired event proved to be the forerunner of today's Friends and Lovers Rally, which is still held each February around Valentine's Day.