15 majestic images from the world's largest hot air balloon festival

A fall tradition for 44 years, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiestatook flight for nine days amid some pretty vicious winds.

Though the weather was warm and pleasant for spectators, cyclone-like winds above forced the cancellation of the event’s premier gas balloon race. “This is the most difficult balloon-flying weather we’ve ever had,” Roger Hoppe, a pilot of 40 years, told the Albuquerque Journal.

Still, the show went on, with over 500 balloons dancing across the sky while thousands of attendees enjoyed music, New Mexican specialties like Pinon Coffee, a wide array of fair-type foods, and even the opportunity to take their own balloon ride.

Keep scrolling to see what it was like.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta had its first lift off in 1972.

This year's event saw over 500 balloons from nearly 20 different countries glide across the New Mexican sky.

The festival is held in Albuquerque due to a wind pattern known as 'the box' that makes it easier to navigate the giant balloons.

'When dreams take flight' was the theme of this year's event, which ran from October 3 to 11.

For several years, the festival was sponsored by Kodak and dubbed the most photographed event in the world.

The first festival featured a fleet of just 14 balloons.

Today, balloonists from South Africa to Thailand make the trek to Albuquerque to be part of the magic.

The event attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Local vendors selling food and souvenirs depend on the festival's tourist draw.

Not everyone is fascinated by the display.

Due to the weather, some of the balloons were inflated but never lifted off.

There have been a few harmful and fatal accidents among balloonists over the years.

Between 1990 and 2007, six people died when their balloons hit power lines. And in 2013, two men were badly injured after their vessel hit a power line and sent them crashing down.

No injuries were reported this year. Pilots now have access to a new radar system and are better informed of wind patterns, according to the festival's executive director.

Tourists and locals alike flock to the 360-acre balloon park to watch the morning ascension.

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