Jan. 12—The next three Albuquerque International Balloon Fiestas are going to be powered by ExxonMobil.
One of the worlds largest producers and refiners of petroleum products has been named as the fiesta's presenting sponsor, Paul Smith, the fiesta's executive director, said Wednesday.
ExxonMobil has signed on as presenting sponsor through 2024, Smith said, adding that the company had already been a major sponsor — "they just elevated their game."
The company began flying balloons in the fiesta in 2019 under its subsidiary, XTO Energy, and again in 2021 under the ExxonMobil banner. It was also a sponsor of a VIP tent, the online production of Balloon Fiesta Live, and the video boards on Main Street, Smith said.
In addition to these sponsorships, he said, "they're going to be in all of our advertising, and whenever we talk about the fiesta it will be the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta powered by ExxonMobil."
Smith declined to say how much ExxonMobil paid for the sponsorship. However, the last presenting sponsor, Canon U.S.A. Inc., in a lawsuit filed against the fiesta, sought the return of $250,000 after the 2020 Balloon Fiesta was put on hiatus because of the COVID pandemic.
ExxonMobil's New Mexico production manager, Rick Cannon, said in a statement, "We are honored to serve as presenting sponsor of one of New Mexico's most well-known and enchanting events. As a major energy producer in New Mexico, we are committed to both being an industry leader and to supporting New Mexican traditions and aspirations. We look forward to joining the Balloon Fiesta team, the ballooning community and New Mexicans in lifting off the 50th Fiesta this October."
Al Tetreault, president of the fiesta's board of directors, said, the board was "delighted" to welcome ExxonMobil as the new presenting sponsor. "Their employees live and work here and this sponsorship of the state's largest tourism event demonstrates their commitment to New Mexico and its rich traditions," he said.
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is billed as the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. The 2019 event generated $186.82 million in total economic impact of which $109.89 million was in direct spending at local businesses and lodging. The fiesta that year saw 866,414 guests.
Attendance for the 2021 fiesta, held with some mask and other COVID safety measures in place, was down 9.5%, compared with the 2019 event. In addition, three of 14 balloon sessions were canceled because of weather.
Because economic impact surveys are conducted every other year, there were no revenue numbers available for 2021. The next survey will be at the conclusion of the 50th golden anniversary event, scheduled for Oct. 1-9.