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Since moving down here some eleven years ago, I've felt that the Fall is the best time if you enjoy getting out-and-about.  Not only is the weather grand (following the heat and monsoonal rains of the summer) but there are a host of annual events to cater to every taste.

It seems like the Fall events season unofficially kicks off with the Bernalillo Wine Festival every Labor Day Weekend.  I have yet to attend but it does look like a lot of fun (I'd planned to drive up there yesterday but ended up sleeping most of the day after a night of uploading photos and some other computer work).

The New Mexico State Fair kicks off this Friday.  I haven't been in a few years but I did attend for the first several that I lived here (I even worked there one year, co-managing the Mac's booth).  It's a great place to go if you enjoy eating as there are all sorts of regional and traditional food stands as well as full-scale restaurants.  I usually try to swing by the building run by the New Mexico Agricultural Board as there are all sorts of free samples of locally-grown food there (another place for great free samples is in the Manuel Lujan Exhibition Hall where organizations demonstrate all sorts of food processors, choppers, etc.).  But by far my favorite is to spend time in the Indian Village, sampling the wares of the Native American food stands while watching the traditional dances.  I always enjoy a nice Indian taco and bowl of mutton stew with an ice cold Coca Cola, perhaps with a desert of fry bread with powdered sugar and honey.  Yum!

I'll be out-of-town for most of the Fair this year, so I need to make sure I attend this coming weekend.  When I do, I plan to seek out a good hot dog stand.  I used to love making hot dogs but I got burned-out on them a few years ago and haven't had one since; apart from cooking my own or eating them at picnics, I can only remember having them at the occasional baseball game.  But I now have a craving to try some of the "unusual" styles of weiners I saw last night on a PBS documentary profiling hot dog stands throughout the U.S., and the unique regional toppings found at many of them.  Cole slaw on a dog?  Sounds good!

Of course, the major Albuquerque event of the fall season is the Balloon Fiesta.  It's the largest ballooning gathering in the world due to the uniqueness of our geography creating perfect flying conditions in what's known as the "Albuquerque Box".  Hundreds of balloons fill the sky over the Rio Grande Valley for those ten days; the best place to be is actually on the field (one of the few that allow spectators to wander amongst the inflating, ascending, and landing aircraft).  This year, the organizers promise some spectacular surprises in conjuction with our Tricentennial celebrations.  And the very expensive International Ballooning Museum is (finally) due to have it's grand opening.

I'll miss the opening mass ascension and other events the first weekend (I'll be in Kansas for Bryan and Melissa's wedding), but I'll probably go several times later in the week.  Each year, I usually try to make at least one of the early morning liftoffs (you need to get out there around 5 in the morning and it can be bitterly cold — but that's what green chile breakfast burritos and piñon nut coffee are good for) and at least one of the evening balloon glows.  There were a couple of years where I was out there virtually every morning and would return in the late afternoons.  I even worked on a chase crew one year.  Perhaps this year, I'll break down and buy one of the really nice special jackets they have (I need a nice down jacket for the Himalayan trip).

Sprinkled among these major events are various other ones such as a large arts & crafts fair spread over two weekends (the last one coinciding with the opening of the Balloon Fiesta so the out-of-town tourists have even more things to spend money on).  Plus, most of the area's Indian pueblos have various feast days for the Fall harvest — another great opportunity to enjoy great Native American food, just don't take your camera as photography of these events is strictly forbidden.

This is also the best time of the year for shopping at the numerous antique shops along old Route 66 east of the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque, or at the huge flea market each weekend at the State Fairgrounds (well, not during the fair in September).  Another recommended flea market is the one held by Tesuque Pueblo right next to the Santa Fe Opera; vendors at this one aren't just local people selling junk but Native American sellers and others from throughout Central and South America, India, South Africa, Japan, etc.  It's a great place to pick up some very interesting folk art from around the world.  (And you can stop at the Jackalope in Santa Fe or Bernalillo on the way home for even more cool stuff; the weather is great for browsing at these types of outdoor markets.)

Speaking of markets, the chile harvest comes in very soon.  You will begin seeing stands crop up in city parking lots and alongside rural roadways throughout New Mexico where you can buy huge burlap bags of the chile pods.  The air fills with the smell of chile pods roasting (the vendors will roast them for you, then you freeze the pods and use them in recipes for the entire year).  You also begin to see an increase in the red chile ristras hanging from patios, portals, doorways, etc. at almost every house or business.

With the increased moisture we saw last Winter and earlier this year (not to mention last month), we may just have a decent apple harvest as well.  The drought has been so bad that a number of apple orchards went bankrupt over the past several years.  Apples are almost as big a business in New Mexico as chile with many communities having festivals celebrating the harvest; let's hope there's actually something to celebrate this year.

Yes, Autumn is definitely my favorite time to live in New Mexico.  And an ideal time for visitors (for future reference — if I'm actually still living in the state next year...).