by Suzanne Labry
Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque—Updated
Rainbow After the Storm/El Arco Iris Desde El Tormento, the 2018 raffle quilt, designed by June Romero, made by Romero and members of the NMQA, and quilted by Trisha Cavanaugh.Five years ago, I wrote about the annual hot air balloon-themed raffle quilts that the New Mexico Quilter’s Association (NMQA) have been creating since 1982, and it seems that now was a good time to revisit this unique and remarkably long-running fundraising tradition.
2018 marks the 36th year that NMQA has made a one-of-a-kind quilt to be raffled off during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta each October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival in the United States and one of
the older ones in the world, having started
The NMQA raffle quilt has become an integral part of the balloon fiesta, because the balloons depicted on each year’s quilt are reproductions of actual balloons that are being flown that year. Balloon pilots provide written permission to allow their balloons to be displayed on the quilt, which has become a coveted honor among the pilots.
Flying Down the Mother Road, the 2017 raffle quilt, designed by Susan Mackenzie.Many of the balloons have bargello-like patterns while others are intricately shaped,
which can be challenging for the talented appliqué artists who are charged with recreating them in fabric.
A single appliqué balloon requires many hours to complete, with each quilt depicting anywhere from 30 to 50 balloons. The current NMQA president, Jo Anne Fredrikson (who, in addition to being a quilter, was
part of a balloon crew for decades) reports that each year’s quilt requires a team of as many as 50 quilters working for more than 700 hours.
The process for making the balloon fiesta quilts hasn’t changed over the past five years. At any given time over the course of the year, the NMQA has three balloon quilts in the works: 1) the current year’s completed quilt, for which raffle tickets are sold and a winner is picked during the Fiesta; 2) the next year’s quilt under construction; and 3) the design contest for the quilt two years out. A continuous process is necessary to ensure that each year’s offering maintains the high standards of design and skill for which the balloon quilts have come to be known.
Storyteller, the 2016 raffle quilt, designed by Anita McSorley.
The Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event features over 500 balloons from many different countries, with close to one million visitors traveling to see them. The NMQA has a booth at the fiesta, and the balloon raffle quilt is a popular draw to attendees.
Fiesta Dreamin’, the 2015 raffle quilt, designed by Betty Standiferd.During the decades of fiesta quilts, winners of the raffle have come from all over the world. The raffle is the NMQA’s largest fundraiser each year and proceeds support all of the group’s activities for the coming year, including the Quilt Bank, which is the group’s outreach effort in the Albuquerque community.
Last year through its Quilt Bank, NMQA gave 742 quilts to local charities that focus on sick and injured children and adults in hospitals, as well as to a variety of service organizations that use the quilts for their own fundraising activities. Money raised during Balloon Fiesta also helps pay for local and internationally known instructors to offer inspiration and education for NMQA members, and provide funding for judges for the annual New Mexico State Fair and the biennial Fiber Arts
If you are interested in purchasing raffle tickets for the 2018 Balloon Fiesta Quilt, “Rainbow After the Storm/El Arco Iris Desde El Tormento,” check the NMQA website closer to October.
Splash and Dash, the 2014 Vicki Romero-Cederberg