My Unfinished interview guest for October went missing, sigh... so change of plans: I will distract from this unfortunate turn of events with copious amounts of hot air balloon photos this week!
The biggest event of the year in Albuquerque kicked off this past weekend: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! I've been eagerly counting down the days, as I LOVE HOT AIR BALLOONS and it's been around 30 years since I've been to a hot air balloon event. This particular festival has been around since 1972, and has grown to be the largest balloon festival in the world; this means we have officially started a collection of "largest events in the world," seeing as how Cheyenne Frontier Days holds that honor for outdoor rodeos. It was fun to note the comparisons between the two even though the subject matter is so drastically different. I am working on selling the idea of saving up for a family hot air balloon ride while we're here—so far I've got 3/5 of the household on board : )
First up: Albuquerque Aloft and the Saturday night Glow!
While the dates are officially October 3-11, the unofficial kickoff happens on the Friday morning before with Albuquerque Aloft, where ballloonists launch from elementary schools all over Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. It is a really cool way to build excitement; a few hundred people attended at Gracie's and Bridget's school where two balloons launched. This is the tenth year of the program, and whoever thought of it was very clever.
I thought I would be very clever and decorate my camera bag with the special balloon pin I've had since the early 1980s when I went to the National Hot Air Balloon Races in Indianola, Iowa. At some point during the event it fell off, which I only discovered after all the hundreds of people were heading into the school and to the parking lots. I went back to look for it, but it was gone, gone, gone. There are so many more pressing problems in the world, I know... but to keep from bursting into tears about this I thought really hard about that ridiculously sad third Knufflebunny book and hoped some nice little girl would find it, pick it up, and make it hers for the next 35 years. SIGH.
Our plan was to attend the Saturday evening Glow first; we headed over shortly after the gates opened at 3:30 which gave us plenty of time to check things out. We hit the booths first—Canon is the big corporate sponsor, so their tent was especially impressive. I may have stomped my foot and thrown a little fit that I couldn't buy one of these lenses they had set up for checking out. Ha. Wendy could practically see Utah from one of these things!
Maddie and Gracie stood in line to participate in the Air National Guard physical fitness challenge and both walked away with their names on the leaderboard. The girl Gracie beat had her name on the leaderboard for about three minutes, because Gracie doesn't like to lose. Haha.
The officials on the field that help run the event are called Zebras! They're easy to spot, clearly. Here's my tip if you're new to attending: stop one of them and ask for all their best advice on where to go, what to look for, etc. We learned a lot from Shawn the Zebra, and would have missed out on a lot of the wandering around in the middle of the field had we not asked him about the best spots to be.
The crews start to unpack (from what looks like duffel bags!) the balloons at dusk, and roll them out to begin inflating them for the Glow. We decided it looked like hard work to be the person who wrangles the ropes and lifts up the balloon for the giant fans to fill. The idea is that they all inflate, and then count down to light them up all at once with their burners.
We were caught off guard that the countdown had happened—after talking to one of the pilots on Sunday morning, I guess the crews had a hard time getting their balloons to stand up because of wind conditions so it was a little more haphazard of a Glow than normal. But no matter, we still enjoyed it!
Part II tomorrow: a 3:45 am alarm for the Sunday mass ascension!