Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta - ‘The Big One’ - Begins
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Propane burners roared as about 250 hot-air balloons rose into the sky Saturday to open the 14th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The event also served as a memorial for plane crash victim Ben Abruzzo, who was a member of the crews of two helium-filled balloons that were the first to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
About half the 476 balloons registered in this year’s fiesta didn’t join the mass ascension Saturday morning because of wind gusting up to 20 mph.
Linda Rutherford, executive director of the fiesta, said Saturday more than 500,000 people will visit the Cutter International Balloonport before the event - billed as ″The Big One″ - ends Oct. 13.
A ceremonial dedication of the 1985 fiesta honored Abruzzo and his wife, Pat, who were killed Feb. 11 when their twin-engine airplane crashed in Albuquerque. Four other people also died in the crash.
Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, all of Albuquerque, rode their helium balloon Double Eagle II across the Atlantic in 1978.
Abruzzo, Newman and two other men crossed the Pacific Ocean in the helium- filled Double Eagle V in 1981, becoming the first people ever to cross that ocean in a balloon.
Anderson and balloonist Don Ida were killed in West Germany in June 1983 during the annual Gordon Bennett International Balloon race from Paris.
Newman made a solo balloon flight Saturday to pay tribute to the Abruzzos, flying Abruzzo’s hot air replica of the Double Eagle II.
″It’s times like these that we remember our friends who have passed on,″ said Tom Rutherford of Albuquerque, the fiesta’s master of ceremonies. ″We think of the joy of living and the importance of having good friends.″
Among those watching the memorial flight were Anderson’s wife, Patty, and Abruzzo’s mother, sister and four children. Gov. Toney Anaya also was in the crowd.