“Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” — Erin Hanson
Stepping off the jetway after the plane landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was excited to be traveling again. When I learned about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, that the event was the same week as when I was planning to travel to Arizona with my mother, I included that in our plans. Apparently, the unique weather and wind patterns make the city unlike any other – and perfect for flying balloons.
The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 and has grown to be the largest balloon convention in the world. The number of registered balloons reached a peak of 1,019 in 2000, prompting the Balloon Fiesta Board to limit the number to 750 starting in 2001. The limit was changed to 600 in 2009 –; citing recent growth in the city and a loss of landing zones. Countless more people gather at landing sites all over the city to watch incoming balloons. Now the nine-day event features over 500 balloons and vendors offer food and coffee to keep thousands of visitors warm and full while they enjoy the sights.
Waking up at 4 a.m. we attempted to get to the fiesta in time for the “Dawn Patrol” of ballons with lighting systems allowing them to fly in the dark. We arrived just in time to see the last few balloons take flight. Afterward, we caught breakfast with VIP tickets I had purchased that had a place to sit that also had hot coffee, as we waited for the mass ascension of hundreds of balloons. It was chilly, about 48 degrees, and I was glad I’d brought a warm coat and gloves.
My camera gear in hand, I was ready to create some images of these awesome unique balloons. We spent the rest of the morning watching as balloons went up high above and walked among the smiling people with their heads looking up to the sky. Not all had a safe landing, however.
According to this article, a balloon called “Mr. Fish” (pictured below) hit a tree before snagging on a light pole near the Lovelace Medical Center in northeast Albuquerque. The pilot, who said he had 30 years of flying experience, said he had tried to land elsewhere, but unfriendly winds brought him into the city. There were no injuries but it did make national headlines that day along with another balloon that had a hard landing and two people were injured.