My favorite balloons from day one, have been the special shapes. The creativity and ingenuity that goes into the manufacturing of these balloons is amazing! Garfield; Boo-boo bear; the Piggy-Bank; the stork/with child; the Ark with the little animals looking over the side of the ship; the wine bottle; the folded newspaper; the old tennis shoe; the bumble bee; a sun wearing sunglasses; a turtle wearing sneakers; the scarecrow; the large pumpkin; orange traffic barrel and my favorite has always been the clunky dairy cow!
"Joy is the feeling of grinning inside." Melba Colgrove
These are just a few reasons why this is the most photographed event in the world and the most attended in the world, too! Let me start off by saying that I am not a Board member of the Fiesta; I do not work for the City of Albuquerque or the Chamber of Commerce and I am not affiliated with the Balloon Fiesta in any way.
This is a quality of life at its best, and I write this article, because I have lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the Balloon Fiesta is held, all my life, and I want to share with others around the world, what this incredible event is like. I'll do my best to paint a picture for you with words, etc.
For those of you around the world, who don't know where Albuquerque, New Mexico is located, I'll try to put it on the map for you. The state of New Mexico is located in the southwestern part of the United States, with our good neighbors to the east...Texas; our good neighbors to the north...Colorado; our good neighbors to the west...Arizona; and our good neighbors to the south...the country of Mexico!
"Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner." Carrie Latet
The Metro-city of Albuquerque, which I like to call a "one horse town," has a population of about 500,000, and is located in the central part of the state, where I-40 (old Route 66) and I-25 (Pan American Freeway) cross, and is located about an hour south of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Question! Have you ever seen over 800 hot-air balloon in one place? The Balloon Fiesta started in 1971, with only 25 hot-air balloons, at the New Mexico State Fair grounds. At that time, I lived less than a mile away from the grounds, and for the first time, I had never seen so many balloons in one place. And, little by little the Fiesta has grown over the years, and the Balloon Fiesta now has over 800 balloonists participating from all over the world!
If you're a person who likes to be around color...this is it! If you're a person who likes to take pictures...this is it! Every year in the first two week-ends in October...the Balloon Fiesta takes place in the crisp weather for a ten day run. This is an event you won't forget any time soon!
"Everyone has a photographic memory...but not everyone has film." Lewis Hines
So, how are over 800 hot-air balloons handled in an organized way? They are handled 200 at a time, to make sure everything goes smoothly. During the mass ascension on each day of the Fiesta, imagine yourself among two hundred of these colorful giants at one time during lift-off!
On the opening day of the Fiesta, all the balloons (200) are laid out on the ground next to each other, and when all the hot air from the propane warms the envelope of the balloon... they are nearly touching each other as they remain on the ground until the signal is given to them for lift off! In this sea of color, you wil get dizzy...looking up at all the giants, waiting to take off! Talk about "inflation," we have it all right here in Albuquerque in October!
Fantastic! Awsome! Incredible...are some of the words you'll hear as the giants get ready to take off. You'll feel so small among these giants! They are so close to each other, you can't even see the sky! With one command...they are off and into the sky...all rising at the same time...and what a sight..that really can't be described!
As soon as the first 200 balloon have lifted off...the second set of 200 prepare to lift off...and then another 200 after that...and then another 200 after that...until all of the 800 balloons are lifted off the ground! Spectacular! Hundreds of balloons dot the sky over the Rio Grande river valley and Albuquerque, New Mexcio! What a sight!
"A good snapshot stops a moment from running away." Eudora Welty
But, you aint seen nothing yet! During one of the ten days of the Fiesta, a Balloon Glow is held. It's called a rodeo or a Glowedo! Over 200 balloons gather for this event...which is held at night! The FAA does not allow balloons to fly at night, so all the balloons are teathered to the ground, as they are inflated with the propane as usual.
As the balloons are lit up at night...the visitor will see a sea of orange, as the balloon are inflated! Candlelight dinner, anyone? Spectacular is the only word that fits here! Ariel photos of this event are incredible! This event reminds me of Halloween, with the orange glow of the baloons up against the black of the night, etc. The first time I saw this event...I was speechless!
During the ten day run of the Fiesta, there are activities all week long at the Balloon Fiesta Park. All kinds of yummy food booths; arts and crafts for sale; music; the Balloon Museum and games competition for the balloonists, etc. For example;
Five 30 foot poles are placed at the Balloon Park and balloonists compete for prizes. There are prizes sitting up on top of these poles such as keys to a new car; keys to a new truck; keys to a new motorcycle; and other prizes such as television sets; computers and so forth. For the spectator, this is great to see which balloon pilot can use his or her skills to maneuver these balloons and sweep in close enough to get the keys for one of these prizes!
Over 36 years, the Balloon Fiesta has been incredibly safe, but like any other large event, the Balloon Fiesta has had its share of casualties! There have been several deaths during the Fiesta, where balloonists have landed on electrical wires, or lost their lives on the west side of the Sandia mountains, etc.
There are restrictions as to where the balloonists can fly and not fly. They cannot fly over military bases; Indian reservations; the airport. Balloonists are not allowed to fly near the Sandia mountains, which are located at the city limits of the city. The Sandia mountains tower over Albuquerque, to a height of over 10, 600 feet above sea level, and support the longest tramway system in North America.
The danger in flying around or near the mountains are the swift currents of wind that are always present. And, because the winds near the mountains are so unpredictable and tricky, etc. Several years ago, a balloon pilot and his wife, tried to scale the Crest of the mountains...a gust of wind caught the balloon...flipped the balloon upside down...and the balloon caught on fire, and they both plunged to their deaths! All along the face of the mountains are restricted to balloonists!
If there are over 800 balloonists...there are over 800 chase crews...chasing and following the balloons wherever they go, to pick up the balloonists after they land. They might land in the river; a convenience store parking lot; in your backyard; a farm or ranch; the sticks; the booneys, etc. As you might imagine, there is organized chaos all around the city, as these chase crews, try to catch up with their pilot and balloon! It's madness...but the citizens of Albuquerque don't mind!
At the end of the Fiesta, there is what is called the AfterGlow Fireworks Show, and that consists of fireworks exploding in the starlit skies! The most photographed event in the world comes to an end! And, did you know that the balloonists have their own prayer? It goes like this:
"May the winds welcome you with softness;
May the sun bless you with its warm hands;
May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter and sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth."
Isn't that neat?
"Life is like a big canvass, and you should throw all the paint you can on it!" Danny Kaye
For over 35 years, I have witnessed this event and I never get tired of it. Over that time, I have seen so many "basket cases" during my lifetime that it's incredible! SEE YA...
Balloon enthusiasts: Those of you who are interested in learning more about the Balloon Fiesta, can go to the Balloon Fiesta website:
Albuquerque International Hot-Air Balloon Fiesta
Copyright; 2008; Jerry Aragon/The Humor Doctor