International balloon fiesta ready to lift off in New Mexico

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2011, file photo, thousands of spectators mingle among inflating hot air balloons at the 40th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M. Hundreds of hot air balloons will lift off from the New Mexico desert over nine days, scheduled to begin on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, as part of one of the world's largest festivals dedicated to the sport of ballooning. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is poised to kick off with the mass ascension of hundreds of hot air balloons.

The fiesta draws pilots from around the world and from 41 U.S. states. As long as the weather is favorable, they will start inflating and launching in waves early Saturday.

Organizers are expecting tens of thousands of spectators for opening weekend and exponentially more over the course of the nine-day event.

The spectacle has grown over nearly five decades and infuses millions of dollars into the economy each year.

The fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world, but drones are strictly prohibited. The Federal Aviation Administration has established a temporary flight restriction zone within a 4 nautical-mile radius (7.4 kilometers) around the launch field.

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