The history of ballooning in Mexico dates back to 1842, when Guanajuato native Don Benito Leon Acosta y Rubí de Celis took off in a hot air balloon which he made himself. It was the first time an aircraft ever flew over Mexico. The first hot air balloon show in the country was held 160 years later. The inaugural edition of the Leon International Balloon Festival took place in 2002 and featured 27 hot air balloons.
Over the years, it has become the largest event of its kind in Latin America. It features hundreds of hot air balloons from around the globe, including uniquely shaped ones, and attracts about 300,000 of attendees every year. The festival takes place in the Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano de León). The park opens at 5:00 am, balloons start inflation at 6:00 am and take off at 7:00 am. The organizers recommend that you arrive early and don’t forget comfy clothes and shoes (remember that the weather can be quite chilly, especially in the morning and evening).
The program of the festival features a wide arrange of shows, exhibitions, and other activities for visitors of all ages. One of its main attractions is the Magic Night Glow, a unique nighttime show full of magic and music. When the sun goes down, all balloons glow (with burners lit) all together to different tunes. They are attached to the ground, since taking off when it’s dark might be dangerous.
Although some hot air balloon festivals offer balloon rides, the Leon International Balloon Festival does not. It is an exhibition show where balloon rides are not available for visitors. But there’s so much fun going on that visitors still get a great experience and have a good time in a beautiful environment, enjoining this unique event. The festival features live music, souvenir booths with official merchandise, and a big food court.
Photo by Victor Razzon