For decades, the Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque has worked behind the scenes to make Balloon Fiesta a success, managing crucial services such as parking and admission
booths. With their help, smaller organizations working under their leadership use a portion of the proceeds earned from those services to fund raise for important local causes.
In this month's Inside the Basket, we talk with Mark Haley, President of the Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque, whose involvement with the Balloon Fiesta extends back to his teenage years as a student at Highland High School, where the local Key Club was tapped to help coordinate the event's inaugural year.
How long have you been involved with Balloon Fiesta?
The Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque has been involved with the Balloon Fiesta since day one, back in 1972. At that time, I was a Key Club member at Highland High School and we, as a club, were asked to help with launch and chase crew duties. More recently, I joined the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club in 2010 and was immediately a part of our Balloon Fiesta activities that October.
Describe what Kiwanis Club does for the Balloon Fiesta each year.
The Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque has, almost since the beginning, provided much of the logistical services for the Balloon Fiesta as it has grown over the years. We have sold admission tickets at the gates and parking tickets in the streets. We’ve parked cars in the various parking lots around the current Balloon Field and at the earlier, smaller fields. We’ve done most of the things that Balloon Fiesta needed us to do to help work with the public as they were making their way onto the field. Over the years, the Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque has raised over $1,500,000 in charitable funds by coordinating with other Kiwanis Clubs, Key Clubs, Collegiate Kiwanians and other civic organizations and groups to handle parking and gate duties. In the past several years, we turned our focus to gates only. Last year we managed more than 550 volunteers who worked 1,250 five-hour shifts for a total of over 6,000 volunteer work-hours. This generated over $75,000 for children’s charities and youth activities in our community.
What do you enjoy most about being involved with Balloon Fiesta?
It is a personal joy of mine to give back to our community. I have lived in Albuquerque for most of my life and owe much to the community that educated me and provides the infrastructure for me to earn a living and enjoy a peaceful, productive life. My children got their start here and are all productive members of their respective communities, partially as a result of the community that supported their youth. Giving back is the focus.
How can someone interested in helping Kiwanis Club make Balloon Fiesta a success get involved?
We are always looking for groups to work the early morning and early evening hours and shifts that we work. Contact us through our web page: www.kiwanis-albuquerque.org or on our Facebook page:
For someone who has never been, what would you say to convince them to come to Balloon Fiesta this year?
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the most colorful and unique event in the world. It should be a part of everyone’s bucket list. The volunteers are trained and work very hard to make every guest feel welcome and informed. It feels like a microcosm of our world since guests come from all over the world. Guest participation ranges from just coming out to watch all the way to actually crewing for the pilots. A truly adjustable nine-day vacation. For RVers there is a small community that moves into town from 2 weeks in advance through the last day of the event.
Also, October is a special time of the year in Albuquerque. The weather is superb and there is the smell of roasting green chile floating through the air along with the balloons.
How can first-timers make the most of their visit?
Come prepared to stay for as long as you can. There’s a lot to do on the field even after the balloons launch. Get to the site early to avoid lines. Be ready with plenty of space on your digital camera or phone because the photo ops never cease. Dress to peel. Mornings are cool and refreshing and afternoons are warm and comfortable. Do whatever ceremony you do for good weather so everyone can enjoy the show in comfort. If you enjoy Mardi Gras, the State Fair, the Easter Parade, a big Thanksgiving Parade, Burning Man, the Super Bowl, the World Series, New Year’s Eve or any similar big-time event, this is an event that you need to experience. Don’t just park on a street a mile away, come down to the field and enjoy it all.
Does Kiwanis Club have a favorite balloon?
We truly love them all!