The Balloon Fiesta is the largest tourism event in New Mexico and the biggest ballooning event in the world. With that being said, our event coordinator, Sandy Wylie works tirelessly every year to put together an event that is memorable for everyone that attends.
What is your title and what do you do at Balloon Fiesta?
As the Event Coordinator, I oversee many different areas. I am the volunteer coordinator, recruiting, training and managing the over 900 Navigators (volunteers) who help us each year. I oversee the Balloon Discovery Center, which is the hands-on learning area where kids of all ages can learn about the sport and science of ballooning and Balloon Fiesta. I manage the Gondola Club, which offers guests a first-class dining experience at one of the most picturesque spots in the park. I book all of the entertainment that happens during Balloon Fiesta, including Balloon Fiesta’s most recent event addition – Music Fiesta. I coordinate eight different parties that we put on during the event for pilots, crew and volunteers. I manage almost all of the passes and tickets that Balloon Fiesta uses and I oversee the Information Booths and the greeters.
What is your favorite part of your job?
When I was in college, I was voted “Most Likely to Throw a Party.” So I guess events are part of who I am. I love the variety that’s involved in overseeing so many areas that are unrelated to each other. I get to use so many of my skills and creativity. For example, I’ve spent the last year developing the Above and Beyond Training Program - a comprehensive training and recognition program for the Navigators. At the same time, I’m also working on developing new exhibits for the Balloon Discovery Center, plotting how to best surprise the volunteers at this year’s Navigator Appreciation Party, and stay within budget in all of my areas!
What makes the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta unique to you?
Although I grew up in Albuquerque, I’ve lived in a lot of other places. New Mexico is like no other place I’ve been, and Balloon Fiesta is inextricable from that. You could take 600 balloons and launch them in a lot of other beautiful places around the world, but without the amazing sunrise over the Sandias, the delicious breakfast burrito to warm you up, and the friendly, easygoing nature of the people from New Mexico, it just wouldn’t hold that magic.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved with Balloon Fiesta (volunteer) but doesn't know where to start?
It depends on how much time they have. If they’re just available for a day or two, I recommend getting on a chase crew. That doesn’t require a long-term commitment, and they get a sense of the overall event (and whether they enjoy getting up at 3:30 a.m. or not!). Or, if they’re not a morning person, but only have a short time available to help, they can volunteer to usher at Music Fiesta. They get to be part of the event at a more reasonable hour, enjoy an evening balloon event, yet still see how things work behind the scenes.