A 50th memory: This year’s official poster features the Looney Toons
Turning 50 is a big deal and to commemorate the event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has a long list of items emblazoned with the logo.
“We’ve been trying to get 50 on as many items as possible this year,” said fiesta merchandise manager Lisa Mulder. “It’s quite significant that we started with 13 balls and now we have 650.”
A peek into the fiesta store reveals t-shirts, jackets, pins, calendars, drink containers, puzzles, shot glasses and, of course, posters.
“Probably over 100, which is significantly more than we’ve ever done before,” Mulder said of the product line.
Topping the list are the popular posters, which this year feature the finale of a five-year series with virtually the entire cast of Looney Toons characters sharing space with stars Wily Coyote, the Roadrunner and Bugs Bunny.
Conceived by artist Daniel Killen through the Chuck Jones Gallery, the finale brings the whole gang together in one big Balloon Fiesta celebration.
“We were trying to bring it all back to the loop,” Mulder said. “If you look at the posters from 1972, there are some bright versions. One with the Roadrunner and one with Wily Coyote, of course. So we thought why not do this kind of celebration for the 50th and bring all the characters back in and do something fun and colorful?
And it’s quite symbolic of the party itself, which includes its own colorful cast of characters.
“Absolutely,” she said. “We all have different types of people and characters coming in.”
Signed posters, which will only be available on the fiesta grounds, are $200 and unsigned $150. And a limited number of the previous four posters are also still available, she said.
Each poster, as well as every 50th item, is adorned with special AIBF tags to allow people to obtain official merchandise, Mulder said.
“Here’s an insider’s tip. One of the problems the Balloon Fiesta has faced in the past is all these other outside bands trying to use our name, trying to capitalize on the event, that sort of thing. Mulder said, “So you’ll see a lot of things from Balloon Fiesta that aren’t trademarked properly because we have a brand event, a brand name.”
But now the “AIBF” logo is incorporated into the designs or sewn on the sleeves of the garments.
“We take the money and put it back into the community and the beautification of the park so it can be used year-round. We do not own the park. So that’s something we tried to do this year to make sure people knew they were getting genuine Balloon Fiesta items.
And some of them are pretty damn cool.
Like the softshell jacket popular every year, which includes the phrase “50th anniversary” inside the zipper protection.
“Softshells are always huge every year,” Mulder said. “We took the 50th design and then put it in the diamond design with the original 13 balloons. It’s hard to show on a lot of pieces but on the jacket it looks great. The balloon at the bottom, which is large, is Sid’s balloon. Sid Cutter, of course.
Jackets are $175. And the old-school varsity letter men’s jacket with a ’72 on the pocket, quilted interior, snaps and an embroidered logo on the back is $200.
“We made a lot of jackets this year, more than we normally would,” she said. “We had fun trying to make the retro varsity jacket stand out. It’s a throwback to Balloon Fiesta 1972.”
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a fiesta without a special pin. Or many, many pins in this case.
“We have this year – collectors are going to be upset – three 50-year-old pins in different colors,” Mulder said. “The main one is gold, of course, for the 50th. Then in a rainbow version that’s sort of anodized and has this cool effect and made it a turquoise. These all got sold so well that I’m almost sold out, so I ordered some more for the field.
These pins are $15 each and are just the start.
“We did a pink, white and completely different turquoise for the pitch,” she said. “What we tried to make special with the regular retail pins is that the 50 on each are raised and we put one of the original 13 balloons on each pin.”
These pins are $9 each.
The t-shirts are full of Looney Toon-inspired characters that took more than two years of negotiations with Warner Brothers to create.
But modest T-shirts are what Mulder really appreciates.
“I love some of the celebration t-shirts,” she said. “Something simple. We have three different colors with blue and then purple and forest to color them. They have the gold logo on the front and the gold celebration with the mountain and the fireworks and a pop of color on the back.
Each of the t-shirts sells for $30, and the long sleeves are $35.
And that includes Del Sol Color Change shirts that look like regular white shirts until they hit the sun, then UV rays produce colored balloons, Mulder said.
Fiesta fanatics should also keep a few pounds in mind. The Guinness Book of World Records includes the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the “largest mass balloon ascent”, with 524, in 2019.
And the photo-rich “50 Years of Balloon Magic” coffee table book, which includes sections on all aspects of the party like Dawn Patrol, Balloon Glow, Special Shape Rodeo, Glodeo and America’s Challenge, as well as a special tribute to Sid Cutter.
The book, written by Paul Rhetts, Dick Brown, Tom McConnell and Kim Vesely, will sell for $45 at the party lot.