The Barron Family has now experienced the International Balloon Fiesta! This event took place on and off over the last eleven days. I say on and off because, as might be expected, the ability to successfully balloon is directly subject to the fickle weather.
We looked into lots of different options for how one might best experience the balloon fiesta, but we were late for most of the swankier options. This left us with the most common option which is to get up at 4 am, take a shuttle to Balloon Fiesta Park, and walk around the vast field. This may sound like the definition of NOT FUN, but in fact, it’s the right way to do it.
I don’t know how to describe the experience. I recommend you add it to your list of must do activities. In the same way that no picture can appropriately capture the feeling of being directly underneath hundreds of launching balloons, my words won’t come close to capturing the appeal. Granted, a 4 am wake up call on a Saturday is never fun, but when you get there before sunrise and you get to see the Morning Glow (wherein the first group of weather-testing balloonist inflate themselves and light up their balloons in a synchronized way, well…it’s something. I literally bounced up and down in my seat.
After that the sun starts rising over the Sandia Mountains, and row after row of balloons float up into the air for the Mass Ascension until you can’t figure out where they’ll all fit. Everywhere you turn is a picture-worthy moment. In the dark the colorful balloons glow like a Christmas tree, and in the daylight the vibrant shapes and colors fill the sky. Kids can go from balloon to balloon and get trading cards for said balloons. There are these referee sort of people that keep the takeoffs organized and safe, and they dress in vibrant zebra stripes to stay visible. There are food vendors and souvenir stands all over the place to give it a carnival feel. There are thousands upon thousands of people.
When I say it’s full of whimsy, I really mean it. An outmoded form of transportation, now a hobby sport, that is at the whim of both the weather and the wind, decked out to be as beautiful, picturesque, or cartoonish as possible…I can’t think of anything else that is the equal to the Balloon Fiesta when it comes to answering the question of “Why?” with “Why not?”
Another day, Rolo and I went to Panera Bread for breakfast (we had two days off school this week for Fall Break) and got an unexpected, but lovely, show from the restaurant window. We were at eye level with many of the balloons since we were slightly up the foothills, and you can really watch the balloons dance on the wind from that vantage point. Some of them do repeated near-freefall maneuvers every few minutes. All of them catch the same wind and start speeding to the right until they either lift up or lower themselves. They turn circles and spin around from time to time. Every once in a while, they actually bump into one another. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone that much.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Balloon Fiesta. We left ourselves plenty of events to experience in the future. I loved that even if you didn’t do the hard work of getting onto the Fiesta grounds, there was still a lot to see. Each day on the way to work, we would watch the balloons fill the sky in our rearview mirrors. If we wandered around town, we saw them overhead or taking off in parking lots (balloons take off from all over Albuquerque, not just the park). It’s a uniquely equitable event in that anyone can experience it to one degree or another whether you can pay/give up time/fight through traffic. I like that. In fact, the day before the Fiesta began, we took Rosalind to school almost an hour early because two balloons from Albuquerque Aloft took off from the park next to her school. Any kiddo that might not have made it to the Fiesta events later on were still able to have a little piece of the experience just by being at school.
So come hang out with us the same time next year. You’ll be glad you did.