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High winds cancel NM Balloon Fiesta launch

Associated Press Published: October 6, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — High winds forced organizers to cancel a mass launch of balloons at an annual hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico on Saturday, putting the brakes on the highly visible kickoff of the nine-day event.

Hundreds of hot-air balloons had been expected to rise into the sky early Saturday morning at the 41st Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but winds well above safety limits halted the effort.

Instead, balloons shaped like a giant Elvis, ice cream cone and child in a wheelchair were kept on the ground until a second attempt is made Sunday morning.

Organizers also postponed the afternoon launch of five hydrogen balloons participating in the America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race.

That cross-country race has seen the inflatables make it to the East Coast in just a few days, spokesman Tom Garrity said. Takeoff is now planned for Sunday.

The delay was because of worries about winds at takeoff time Saturday afternoon and weather at projected landing sites.

The soaring cost of helium has limited the number of participants this year, Garrity said. It can now cost more than $20,000 to inflate a helium balloon and only a few thousand dollars for a hydrogen craft, so only hydrogen balloons are signed up to race.

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