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Russell Contreras, Associated Press
In this Oct. 8, 2011 photo, "Joey Little Bee" and "Lilly Little Bee" hot air balloons are shown at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The 41st annual event is set to begin Saturday and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the country and the global.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A giant Elvis and a child in a wheelchair are among the new shapes set to take part in an annual hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico.

The 41st Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is scheduled to begin Saturday with the launch of hundreds of hot-air balloons.

More than 550 pilots have signed up to fly balloons during the nine-day event. Other balloon shapes making their debut at the fiesta include an ice cream cone, an astronaut and Simba the lion.

Fiesta officials hope for better weather for the nine-day affair after wind and rains sidelined balloons for a few events last year, cutting attendance by about 100,000 visitors.

Still, organizers last year broke a world record, sending up 345 balloons at one time.



Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/