Posted at: 09/18/2013 8:42 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta is truly an international event. Getting all those balloons here can be a real challenge, especially when you have borders to cross and not just state lines.
Balloon Fiesta organizers have tried to make it as easy as possible for our visitors, especially the ones who travel the farthest.
Last year was Costa Rican balloonist Esteban Elizondo's first time piloting his Serendipidy balloon in Albuquerque.
"It's always been a goal for every balloonist. You know, this is the mecca of the balloons in the world. Coming here is what everybody who is in the balloon world gets to dream," Elizondo said.
Balloon Fiesta organizers know that too. So they created a "Committee of Ambassadors" three years ago with an emphasis to help first time international balloon pilots. Nancy Abruzzo is the "International Liason" and says getting them all here is a challenge.
"Upwards of 110 international pilots participating in the fiesta. 36 of them first timer pilots which is really exciting," Abruzzo said.
Abruzzo says they're seeing an increase on international balloon pilots. After a dip post-9/11, Customs and Homeland Security made it tougher. So organizers streamlined the process to cut through some of the red tape.
"They go to the step of having a sample as to how to fill out the very complicated international forms. Working through customs, working through the FAA in terms of their documentation," Abruzzo said.
We're told the Costa Rican balloon and its crew will be making their 3,000 mile journey again this year.
"It's not enough when you tell people. You have to live it. It's a great experience that you have to come here and see it. Otherwise there is never enough words to describe it," Abruzzo said.
Abruzzo tells us that the farthest any first timer will travel is 9,000 miles one way. A balloonist from Capetown, South Africa is coming to participate. The 42nd Annual Balloon Fiesta will start in 16 days. You can catch all the action on KOB-TV and kob.com.