Time to Fly

13 11 2014


Driving up to the festival grounds I had my eyes peeled.  We were running late and crawling through the traffic trying to get parked and onto the field where the balloons were launching and I didn’t want to miss seeing the balloons in full glow.  Is that one!  No – just a tower light.  That’s definitely one.  There it is – look at it!  No that’s just a tree lit up by a parking lot lamp.  I scoured the darkness around us because you would think that you’d be able to see hot air balloons glowing in the darkness.  Nothing.

And then we got parked and made our way to the ticket booth and gates.  Ahh.  There we are.  Tension was released, and it was like everything was right in the world now.  I found them.  And I just knew.




Since this was our second time visiting the festival, it was slightly less overwhelming.  I felt like we kind of knew the rules – when you hear the zebras whistling….get back!  So I took time to really see what was happening on the field.


It was a great opportunity to see the camaraderie and teamwork as balloon after balloon was sent on its way.



Normally things in large numbers kind of freak me out (birds, ants, really bugs of any kind all in one place), but hot air balloons may be the only exception.   Watching all these balloons float up into the sky is kind of a zen experience.







It was a privilege to be able to attend this great event for the second time and I don’t think it will ever get old.  But next time, we’ll have to go flying.



Just You, Me, and the Balloons

7 10 2011

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top the excitement, smiles and general ‘happy’ feelings that the Balloon Fiesta photos were able to inspire in people, but hopefully I can give you a solid follow up post.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is noted as the World’s Most Photographed event but even the best photos can’t compare to the sounds and sights of floating balloons launching every minute.  The whooshing sound of the flames heating up the air, the whistles in the background signaling yet another balloon being launched and the silence of the floating balloons.

For everyone who has never been to the Balloon Fiesta, for those who haven’t been back in years, or even for those that were there and are still on a balloon high, hopefully my little blackberry videos (I’m sorry) can give you a sense of the experience.

We Found Them!

5 10 2011

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. 



It’s Worth It

3 10 2011

There is an art to attending large scale events.  Jostling crowds, heavy traffic, cold weather, over-priced vendor food and outhouses.  It can make a lot of people want to stay home and avoid all of the craziness altogether.  You can talk yourself into staying at home and tell yourself, ‘mmmm is it really worth it?  All the hassle.  It’s probably better to just watch the coverage from home.’

Yes.  It is much easier to avoid the 4am wake up call, the steady line of traffic into the event grounds, the pre-dawn chill, and everything else that goes hand in hand with large events.  But, you would miss out on the feeling of anticipation, the tingle at the back of your neck as you jump out of the car and head to the event, the feeling of camaraderie with people from all over the world that you’re sharing an experience with, the smell of cinnamon, coffee, breakfast burritos and most importantly, you would miss out on the feeling of amazement that you are seeing what you’re seeing and experiencing what you’re experiencing.

The trick:  Wake up early and suck it up!  You only get stuck in traffic when you try to go when everyone else is going to the event.  You only get stuck in a crowd when you join an already established crowd….you need to get there first!  And head to the event ready to take in everything that you can and let yourself be as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, clapping, whooping, and waving alongside everyone else.

40 years of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and I’m sure it never gets old to listen to the countdown before seeing ten hot air balloons lined up in a row light up against the black sky and then launch one by one until they are up in the air twinkling like Christmas tree lights as they dazzle the crowd with a flicker burn.