Whatever Happened to Lubbock's Balloon Rally? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/14/02

Whatever Happened to Lubbock's Balloon Rally?

The skies were colorful this past weekend in Albuquerque. New Mexico's largest city held its 31st Annual International Balloon Fiesta last week. Hot air balloons fill the Albuquerque skies for nine consecutive days every October.

Years ago, you might recall Lubbock had a balloon rally of its own. It happened for several consecutive years in the late '80's and early '90's -- then stopped. So, whatever happened to Lubbock's balloon rally?

It's been 11 years since Lubbock's last organized balloon rally in 1991. So, was it the gusty West Texas wind or something else that let all the air out of Lubbock's festival? NewsChannel 11 went to Albuquerque this past weekend to find out.

It's one of fall's most spectacular scenes -- Albuquerque's Annual Balloon Fiesta. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta draws thousands from all over the globe and is consistently a huge success. The rally lifts spirits, but more importantly gives the Albuquerque economy a big boost annually. The event draws more than 100,000 visitors per year. Certainly, the largest rally of its kind. But it's an expensive endeavor to organize, and that's perhaps what deflated Lubbock's rally.

"It grew and grew really well, but the more often we had the rally, the more difficult it became to find sponsors," says Martha Courtney.

Courtney is a member of the Southwest Regional Balloon Club in Lubbock. She says unlike Albuquerque's rally, Lubbock's never really got off the ground, and it never gained enough support to continue on an annual basis.

"A balloon rally takes money. We got tired of begging for sponsorship, and it was simply easier to stop," she says.

Lubbock's rally also faced another obstacle -- the weather. Although, it is possible to fly in Lubbock, conditions have to be just right, and Lubbock's weather didn't always cooperate.

"One of the challenges we have in Lubbock is our weather. It's just not as conducive to ballooning as the weather in Albuquerque," says Barry Ballinger with Plains National Bank.

"We're entirely dependent on the wind. Anything over six to seven miles per hour, and we can't fly," says Courtney.

But that doesn't mean it's not possible to fly in Lubbock. Martha Courtney says Lubbock has some fall and winter days that are perfect for ballooning. With enough volunteers, she says it's possible to organize another rally in Lubbock that would draw at least 50 balloons, and many more if people caught wind of it. That's something Lubbockites who we found in Albuquerque would like to see.

If you'd like to find out more about Lubbock's balloon club, they meet the second Wednesday of every month at Plains National Bank.

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