‘Nothing like it:’ Global balloon fiesta ready for liftoff

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of hot air balloons will lift off from the New Mexico desert over nine days as part of one of the world’s largest festivals dedicated to the sport of ballooning.

In its 48th year, the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is scheduled to kick off Saturday with a mass ascension.

More than 580 balloons are registered, 17 countries are represented, and tens of thousands of spectators from around the world are expected to turn out for opening weekend.

Elijah Sanchez will be among the youngest to launch. After years of crewing on the ground and hours of studying to earn his license, the 20-year-old pilot says he couldn’t be more excited.

Albuquerque has hosted the fiesta since its inception in 1972.

Troy Bradley, one of the ballooning world’s most prolific record-setters, said, “There’s just nothing like it in the world, to see that much color going into the sky.”

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