Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Albuquerque Balloon Festival

We had heard about the balloon festival but figured it would be crowded, difficult, and maybe (like most large gatherings) not worth the effort to go to. Friends kept telling us "you have to go." Jeff asked around at work and people confirmed that, yes, you have to go very early to see the "mass ascension." It was decided that our friends Mike and Sandy would meet us at the RailRunner and we would head off at 5:30a.m. on the first day of the thing to check it out. Mike and I wanted to photograph (of course) and Sandy and Jeff were the reluctant "I really don't want to wake up for this" companions. The promise of cokes and food and every one saying "you have to go" got Jeff to agree to it (and he is glad he went - once). Jeff works right next to the balloon park and we were able to park in his work parking lot and do the quick walk. Getting to his work proved to be a little tricky since there was some construction but in Albuquerque "traffic" means 20 extra minutes max. There IS no traffic. This event has lots and lots of people so we did have some slowdowns but nothing worth mentioning. It was dark and around 50 degrees out. There were people milling around on the grass and you could just walk among the deflated balloons watching as everyone prepared for launch. There were lots and lots of balloons of different sizes and lots of flames and ropes. Everything was very calm and surprisingly quiet. Before we knew it it was lift off time and row one of balloons lifted off (Mike and I scrambled around), then row two etc etc and it was really just smiles all around and not knowing where to look because there was magic everywhere!!!! It was as if massive xmas ornaments were floating up and away all at once!

After the waves of balloons launched the odd-shaped ones were getting ready and the sun was coming up. The mountains that ARE Albuquerque appeared with the sun behind them and the balloons lit up as the sun hit them. It was spectacular - first the glow from the propane and then the natural night as the landscape transformed everything into something else. Now there were colors everywhere, breakfast burritos and coffee. After the mass ascension it was pretty much over but we munched and roamed around to see the odd shapes. Some of them couldn't ascend because they were too large to land in the direction the wind was going so they just bobbed up and down. The giant cow was deflated so a simpler back-up balloon could be inflated and sent up. It was comical watching it deflate as the crowd below just stepped out of the way. It was a wonderful morning (we were back by 11) followed by house hunting which is another post.

Verdict? We are going to the Glowdeo tomorrow night which is all the odd shaped balloons lighting up at once at dusk followed by fireworks. Then Mike and I are heading out even earlier on Saturday morning (while Jeff and Sandy sleep in) to see the "Dawn Patrol" which is when they launch the first balloons to see how the winds are. These balloons are HUGE floating across a HUGE landscape with a HUGE mountain as a backdrop. The day starts out chilly (50's) and then as the sun comes up rapidly warms to the 70's for burrito time and a little more by noon with the highest temperatures after 3pm. Just perfect! Lucky Jeff has seen them launch every day when he goes to work - his work parking lot is next to the balloon par