I have always had a thing for nonporous bags of light material that can be inflated with heated air and float in the sky with a basket underneath for people to ride in. So imagine my excitement when my husband’s aunt in Mexico invited us to visit her in Leon, Guanajuato. It just so happened that the International Balloon Festival would be taking place! (Known as ‘FIG’ by the cool kids: Festival Internacional del Globo).
Even though I am definitely not a morning person, I was so excited that I didn’t mind the 5am wake-up. Plus my husband’s aunt had made us a thermos of coffee, laced with cajeta flavoured crema de mezcal from Oaxaca. Cajeta is a caramel made from goat’s milk and is just about the most delicious thing you will ever taste. Mezcal is similar to tequila and can be made into a cream liquor. Think Baileys, but quite different.
With my goat-caramel coffee hootch (try ordering that at Starbucks) in hand, I watched massive balloon after balloon slowly inflate and gently lift off over our heads. It was a beautiful sight to see so many up in the sky at once and it made my wish to take a ride in one even stronger.
Floating alongside the traditional style balloons, which are my personal favorite, were at least 20 others designed in more unconventional shapes.
A butterfly, penguin, devil, and even a glitzy white-suited Elvis cruised through the skies above the park.
After the balloons landed, other events filled up the park. We bought paper parasols to shade us from the hot November sun (fake mustaches and beards were also available for some reason) and took in a rodeo, a charro exhibition, trick riding performances, and a dog show.
Unfortunately the winds were too high during the evening and the nightly balloon illumination show was cancelled. Some of the pilots felt sorry for the disappointed crowd and lit up their burners. It wasn’t quite the same effect without the inflated balloons, but we did have fun pretending we were fire breathers.
Spanish singer Anni B Sweet performed at the nightly concert and put on a great show. The headliners every year are well known artists within Mexico and the Hispanic world, and usually draw in a big nightly crowd.
This year’s festival takes place November 17-20th, 2017. Entry into the Metropolitan Ecological Park of Leon where the event takes place is 100 Mexican pesos (less than $10) and tickets can be purchased at OXXO stores in Leon. Mass ascension of the balloons begins at 7am but it is recommended to be there early. The nightly balloon show begins at 6pm. Pets and alcohol are not allowed in the park and it is advised to wear light layers and comfortable footwear. The early mornings and evenings will be cool, but the afternoons quite hot. Leon has an international airport, and is about a four hour bus ride/drive from Mexico City.
For more information on the festival check out my article with photos on Mexconnect.
For a look at some of the quirky balloons from 2012, float on over to my photo gallery.
Has anyone else been to this festival? Know of any other similar events to recommend?