Who would think that you could go to Albuquerque, NM on the first day of the Balloon Fiesta and not see a single hot air balloon? The live news reports showed balloon after balloon being launched at 7am and an estimated 600+ balloons participating in the Mass Ascension.
It’s simple really. All you have to do is head down to Albuquerque around 11am, when the temperature is rising and all of the balloons have landed and been scooped up by their Chase Crews already.
So you can imagine my skepticism when we planned on heading down to the Balloon Fiesta the second day to watch the Morning Glow and Mass Ascension. On the drive we joked about there being a conspiracy and that the news coverage was actually from past years. Even when we arrived on the festival grounds, in the dark, I still wasn’t sure what to expect since there were only one or two balloons being inflated.
Yes, I clapped like crazy when the 10 Dawn Patrol balloons lit up and launched to start the day off. But this in no way prepared me for the next two hours.
Row after row of ‘sleeping giants’ started to appear out of no where.
These balloons are huge. It doesn’t seem possible that they can creep up on you, but they do. And it doesn’t seem like you should be able to have free reign to walk around while all of this is happening. But this is a full participation event. You can walk around the balloons as they are being inflated, look straight inside the balloons, help hold down the basket before it launches, get shoo’d aside by the “Zebra” (balloon launching official), and pretty much stand in awe as balloon after balloon launch in all directions right beside you and right over your head. I even had a balloon lean on me as it was being inflated.
As each balloon launched in front of me I felt it my duty to clap, yell, and wave at the pilot and crew as they floated overhead. It was almost sensory overload and after 2 hours, we decided to head out and try to find a viewing spot to see the balloons dip down to skim the surface of the Rio Grande River.
Although we weren’t able to get to the exact spot the balloons were touching down (it’s hard to predict the whims of the wind), the further we got from the actual event grounds, the more surreal the hundreds of balloons in the sky looked.
This post was “Freshly Pressed” on October 6, 2011.