An Event Like No Other
“For nine days in October the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® creates an enchanted world of special shape balloon rodeos, twilight balloon glows, and vibrant balloon-filled skies. Brisk autumnal mornings in the Rio Grande Valley create an otherworldly backdrop for the breathtaking majesty of our most popular event, Mass Ascension of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®.”
Every year since 1972, hot air balloons have risen over the plains of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event from October 6th to October 14th, and has over 500 hot air balloons each year. The event is the largest balloon festival in the world.
So naturally, that’s where we want to be. 🙂
Albuquerque is in the desert, meaning there is little moisture in the air, meaning there is little to hold the heat. When the sun goes down, it’s cold; when the sun comes up, it’s hot. Even in October, the temperature can be in the 30s just before sunrise and in the 80s in the afternoon.
Good stuff to know before venturing out to Dawn Patrol.
Like many of the visitors to the Fiesta, we awaken at 4:30am and drive to the park, following the lines of cars and parking in a large field. Inside the park are people eating sweet and greasy food and drinking large cups of coffee. It’s too early for that.
Besides, we are here to see the balloons!
The balloon operators carefully direct the hot flames into the balloon, never (seeming) to make a mistake. The heat of the fire extends perhaps three meters and it is warm!
We are able to get quite close to the balloons and watch as the operators fill the balloons with heated air. There is a loud hiss each time the nozzle is opened. Slowly, the balloons inflate and begin to rise.
As the balloons become fuller, the operators shoot large blasts of burning gas into the balloons, causing them to glow and us to feel warmer from the ambient heat.
The sky is just barely lightening as the balloonists prepare to begin their dawn ascension.
This photograph is taken with a flash so details can be seen. The basket looks surprisingly frail. I hope they used the bathroom already….
The Dawn Patrol begins as the balloons ascend, here and there, into the early morning sky.
It’s a magical moment as the huge balloons rise brightly, climbing effortless higher and higher.
The sun is about to rise. More and more people crowd the field, and more and more balloons are beginning to fill. And, mercifully, it’s getting warmer. We San Diegans are not accustomed to such frigid desert air. Brrrrrr.
We know there will be a mass ascension, but before that happens, individual balloons float into the sky.
As the balloons ascend, the pilots continue to shoot burning gas upwards. Even at this distance, we can hear the hiss of the gas leaving the nozzle.
The day continue to warm and the sky turns from black to blue. On the ground, more balloons are starting to fill.
We don’t know what the temperature is for the pilots, but we imagine it’s colder than here on the ground.
We see more and more balloons with some sort of advertisement, logo, or special design. It makes sense, I guess, that these folks waited until it was light before ascending. This balloon has one of the larger baskets that we’ve seen.
Missouri has its own balloon, although they still haven’t figured out how to pronounce “Missouri“.
Some people wonder if the universe itself is curved. I think this balloon solves the issue nicely. Plus, this model accounts for the universe’s expansion.
Even if you are big and round, you should still eat a healthy diet of fruit.
I think these balloonists are trying to create an optical illusion. It’s not working….
People said the mass ascension is awesome. People are right.
With Fiesta officials coordinating the effort, rows of balloons begin to inflate and float into the heavens.
Each row prepares, the balloons close enough that they sometime touch each other.
When the signal arrives, the balloons rise, sometimes very close to each other. I guess they know what they’re doing….
The mass ascension continues in earnest as dozens of balloons rise into the early morning sky.
Even as the balloons rise in greater numbers, we can see that even more balloons are being prepared for launch.
Each minute we are awed by the number of balloons in the sky, and each minute more balloons join the ascension.
Before long, the heavens are filled with brave people in tiny baskets floating above us, silent but for the occasional hiss of hot gas.
The ascension last for about two hours. It is amazing to behold.
Not all balloons are round. Some are even funny, Well, all balloons can be funny if round is funny, I suppose.
Tweety Bird patrols the skies for putty tats.
I am surprised this floats so evenly. It seems bottom-heavy compared to the other balloons. People smarter than me designed it, that’s for sure.
Balloon birds seem to be a common theme. Makes sense….
This bird is raising its crest feathers. Apparently, it’s angry, too.
This wouldn’t be a pirate, but rather a corsair. Get it?
If you look closely, the balloon reads, “quebec.com” — but I have no idea what this is aboot. <– “about” with a Canadian accent.
We have given you a taste of the wonders to be seen at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but you must experience it to really share that feeling of “I didn’t know men could build such things.“
What goes up must come down, and next week we will take a look at the descent (which, fortuitously, happened in the field directly behind our rental house.)
We will see you then!