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09/30/2011 08:11 am ET | Updated Nov 30, 2011

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Starts October 1 (PHOTOS)

The 40th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta lifts off October 1, with more than 600 balloons headed to the New Mexico skies for the more-than-week-long event. It's the world's largest hot air balloon rally.

With more than 100,000 people expected to attend, the crowds start lining up to see balloons and chat with pilots as early as 4:30 a.m.

The morning flights promise "mass ascensions" with hundreds of balloons taking to the sky at once. Evening sessions offer an incredibly atmospheric photo op, with flames illuminating balloons shaped like everything from puppies to Matryoshka dolls.

Launch the full-screen slideshow below for a look at past years' Fiestas -- and an idea of what to expect this year.

2011 Albuquerque International Baloon Fiesta