Mexican hot-air balloon festival reopens to public after Covid-19 hiatus
Guanajuato City, Mexico, Nov 12 (EFE).- Mexico’s annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival (FIG) welcomed back crowds starting Friday after a one-year pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regarded as one of the three leading of events of its kind worldwide, the FIG has been held annually since 2001 in Leon, a city in the central state of Guanajuato, but was only viewable in digital format last year due to health protocols.
“It’s now been several times I’ve watched (the event) on television and the Internet, and now that I had the chance with my partner we decided to come. The attention from the staff has been excellent. Everything’s been very good, visually attractive, the (different) sizes, the colors, the shapes, everything,” said Denis Garcia, who is visiting from the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.
A total of 200 hot-air balloons from a score of countries, including the United States, Russia, Brazil, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Spain, will be showcased during the four-day event that runs through Monday.
Other entertainment will include evening concerts and shows by artists such as Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez, French record producer DJ Snake and Amalia Hernandez’s Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.
The Leon festival is known for balloons shaped like popular characters, including one this year in the form of Freddy Fox, a character from the Peppa Pig preschool animated television series.
Vanessa Rubio arrived with her husband and their young daughter from the western state of Nayarit, having traveled a distance of just over 400 kilometers (250 miles).
She said it is exciting to watch the balloons and a worthwhile experience for people of all ages.
The biggest attraction at this year’s FIG is the colorful “Lovely Dog” balloon that will be flown for the first time outside Brazil and is based on the acrylic on canvas painting by internationally renowned Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto, whose work has been exhibited in more than 100 countries.
During one of the peaks of the pandemic last year in Mexico, the event’s organizers and local authorities decided to hold the balloon festival with only 100 pilots and not allow the general public access to the grounds.
The 2020 FIG also was held at a golf course instead of the city’s Metropolitan Park, a 337-hectare (1.3-square mile) natural protected area that is its traditional venue.
But due to a sustained drop in both coronavirus cases and Covid-19 deaths, the general public was welcomed back to this year’s event.
The 2021 festival is expected to draw around 180,000 people and bring in approximately $10 million in revenue, according to figures from Guanajuato state’s Tourism Secretariat. EFE