The Balloon Fiesta started with 13 balloons in 1972. By 1978, it was the largest ballooning event in the world with 273 entries, and now attendance has grown to hundreds of balloons and thousands of pilots participating. The Fiesta has moved from the parking lot of Coronado Center to the Fairgrounds to Balloon Fiesta Park, with a museum dedicated to balloon flight, the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, onsite. For nine days in October, a full-time paid staff of less than 12 people, an all-volunteer board of up to 24 members, and thousands of volunteers work together to put on this exciting event, which includes weekend and Wednesday mass ascensions, Balloon Glow®, Night Magic™ Glow, and the Special Shape Rodeo and Special Shape Glowdeo™. The Balloon Fiesta was sponsored by Kodak from 1992-2002, in reflection that the event had become one of the world's most photographed.
In 1975, there were two Balloon Fiestas! The 1974 Fiesta had been held in February, but it was decided that due to persistent bad weather in New Mexico February-April, it would be better to stage the 1975 Balloon Fiesta in October. But there was concern that the public might lose interest in the 20 months between events, so a local balloon club, the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (AAAA) stepped in and hosted a different balloon event in February 1975, the Cloudbouncer Rally - this morphed into the Friends and Lovers Rally, which the AAAA continues to host today.