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Mass ascension launches balloon event after COVID-19 hiatus

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2019, file photo, hot air balloons are inflated during the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is returning after a pandemic hiatus with plans to launch about 540 hot-air balloons in a stunning visual spectacle. The nine-day event starts Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of hot-air balloons created a colorful tapestry against a blue sky in New Mexico’s largest city, kicking off a nine-day annual event that was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Saturday morning’s mass ascension was the first of five scheduled for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

The 2020 fiesta was canceled as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Organizers say more than 540 balloons are registered for this year’s event.

Fiesta organizers say they won’t be checking for vaccination cards. But they noted precautions are being taken to preserve social distancing and provide access to hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations.

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