After living in New Mexico for more than 10 years my wife and I finally decided to brave the crowds, the over-priced hotels and the early, early morning hour to attend this acclaimed event. At one time Kodak was a major sponsor of the event, which has been called the most photographed event in America. Hey, I'm a photographer, I can do that... but after seeing the Red Rock Balloon Rally in Gallup and having seen the crowds and hearing about the logistical problems of the Fiesta I decided "some other time."
I went on my own time, not as an assignment for anybody, so I carried a limited amount of camera gear and only took some images for myself, not for anybody else. It was a welcome change from always having to think about interpreting my assignments based on making things clear to an outside viewer.
In the end I had a good experience. The crowds were huge - the line to get onto the shuttle bus long, the line to get on the shuttle bus to leave three times worse. Still, almost everybody we ran into (pressed/squeezed into?) was having fun and joking around just trying to make the best of it.
A word of warning -- do not just pop in thinking that you will be able to find a hotel room, and prepare to pay triple the normal room rates. I had a room reserved and the hotel had some water leakage problems that ended up forcing them to place me at another property. The room was not as nice, and the price was going to be even higher except that manager at my original booking location made arrangements for them to honor my original reservation rate.