Exclusive: Pilots from across the Carolinas take part in international balloon fest

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Pilots from around North Carolina and the world flocked to New Mexico for the 49th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The nine-day event brings balloonists and fans by the hundreds of thousands.

“There’s so much going on!” Said Jayme Nelson, Pilot of Anderson, SC-based Balloon ‘Palmetto Paws’. “It’s so beautiful but you have to be aware of there being so many around you.”

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Nelson pilots the balloon with her father, who taught her how to fly.

From Charlotte, Clark Harbold is piloting ‘It’s a Zoo’. He says the annual pilgrimage to New Mexico is part of the ballooning culture. “This is our homage to the wind and mother nature. We always come to Albuquerque — we have Statesville as a local thing but that was canceled this year.”

Harbold says his entire team is vaccinated and knows that COVID still dealt a blow to the fiestas. Many international balloon teams were unable to attend due to the hard and fast restrictions on international travel.

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