This year, Leon, Guanajuato held their 10th Annual Festival Internacional Del Globo (International Hot Air Balloon Festival) from November 18-21. Falling on a ‘puente’ aka Mexican holiday weekend, Eddy and I decided to make the trip to Guanajuato to see it for ourselves. The commercials and billboards for this event kept popping up at us everywhere which convinced us it was a sign! Plus, we’ve been meaning to take a trip to Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende anyways, so this was the perfect weekend to do so.
We decided to go to the festival bright and early on Sunday because the balloons prime time to fly in the sky are at the break of dawn and then again at night. That morning, we left from Guanajuato City towards Leon at 6:00am. We had hoped to arrive at 7:30am (the official time of the release of the balloons in the air) and thought by leaving at 6 we would be early since it was only a 1 hour drive. Boy were we wrong! Because of traffic leading to the festival and the scarcity of available parking, we did not arrive until 8:30am. Bumper to bumper on our way, we could see the balloons in the sky from a distance, but by the time we arrived to Parque Metropolitano, where the festival was taking place, most of them had come down.
Picking up a local paper, it seemed the boasted ”200 balloons from over 14 other countries” must have been there on the days prior to Sunday, because unfortunately, I didn’t see much. The pictures in the newspaper looked amazing.. giant clocks, elephants, tuxedos and super heros flown high in the sky.
Newspapers said that on Sunday alone 100,000 visitors came to the park… that is something I can defiantly attest to. There was un chingo of people, and even though it was a huge park, you could barely walk between the balloons, the food stands, and all the camping tents. After paying our entrance fee, and seeing a handful of balloons floating from the ground, we grabbed some food and headed out by 10:30am. Other events part of the festival was a circus, dog show, mini rodeo, live music and clowns.
This year, the festival was said to have grown 37% in attendees, 40% of them being from Mexico City. It exceeded 370,000 visitors and over 20 million in tourism dollars with hotels at 100% occupancy and tourists pouring out money to take advantage of the holiday weekend. It is said that the weekend has been one of the best for the tourism sector of Guanajuato.
Great job, Leon! My opinion on the International Balloon Festival is.. make sure you leave early, make sure you have patience, and go on Saturday! It was pretty cool even to see a few balloons up and going, but it would have been even cooler to see hundreds. At least I can say I’ve been.