Festivals and Events
The city’s biggest annual event is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (888/422-7277, www.balloonfiesta.com), nine days in October dedicated to New Mexico’s official state aircraft, with more than 700 hot-air balloons of all colors, shapes, and sizes gathering at a dedicated park on the north edge of town, west of I-25. During the fiesta, the city is packed with fanatical “airheads,” who claim this is the best gathering of its kind in the world. If you go, don’t miss an early-morning mass ascension, when the balloons glow against the dark sky, then lift silently into the air in a great wave.
You’ll catch an equally colorful show at the Gathering of Nations Powwow (www.gatheringofnations.com), the largest tribal get-together in the United States, with more than 3,000 dancers and singers in full regalia from more than 500 tribes crowding the floor of the University Arena. Miss Indian World earns her crown by showing off traditional talents such as spearfishing or storytelling. The event takes place the last weekend in April.
The state’s agricultural roots get their due at the New Mexico State Fair (www.exponm.com), a 17-day festival of fried foods and prizewinning livestock that begins immediately after Labor Day. It’s your usual mix of midway craziness and exhibition barns, along with really excellent rodeos, which often end with shows by country music legends such as Willie Nelson.
Around November 2, don’t miss the Day of the Dead parade in the South Valley, also known as the Marigold Parade, for the bright-orange flower that’s associated with this Mexican festival for honoring the departed. A procession of skeletons and cars bedecked in marigolds begins by the sheriff’s station on Isleta Boulevard, south of Arenal Boulevard, winds through the neighborhood, and ends with a big party at the Westside Community Center (1250 Isleta Blvd. SW, 505/768-5500); call for the exact date and time.
The rest of the year is crowded with specialist get-togethers, such as the New Mexico Wine Festival (505/867-3311, www.newmexicowinefestival.com), which takes place in Bernalillo over Labor Day weekend—it’s well attended by a wide swath of Burqueños; the Rail Runner runs on a special schedule, sparing stress on designated drivers.
Also look out for the National Fiery Foods Show in March, where capsaicin fanatics try out hot new products.
The Bernalillo Art Car Parade is in early October.
The Mariachi Spectacular is in early July.
And the weeklong International Flamenco Festival (www.nationalinstituteofflamenco.org) in June, is the largest event of its kind in the United States, with performances and workshops sponsored by the National Institute of Flamenco, which has its conservatory here.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition