Albuquerque – Authorities say Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta founder Sid Cutter has died.
Officials with the Balloon Fiesta say Cutter died in his sleep early Saturday at age 77 after a long battle with stomach cancer.
The Albuquerque-born Cutter was credited with organizing the first Balloon Fiesta in 1972.
The yearly event grew steadily for decades and now is considered one of world's largest hot air balloon festivals.
The nine-day event is held in Albuquerque in early October and is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. It also serves as a major showcase of New Mexican culture and history.
As a pilot, Cutter was the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon champion in 1978 and 1986.
In lieu of a funeral, a living reception was held for Cutter in April.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.