Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, October 2, 2010

I got up very early and went with my family to the pickup point for the shuttle to the Balloon Fiesta.  We got there sometime around 5:30 and there was a huge line.  Someone announced that the busses were being held up by Homeland Security and that the people at the end of the line - that would be us - weren't going to make it to the Balloon Fiesta until 8:30.  We gave up on the shuttle, got back in our cars and drove to the venue.

Early in the morning they had a Glow scheduled, where the balloons would fire their burners so the balloons are lit from the inside and glow against the pre-dawn sky.  Well, it had been too windy so they didn't have a Glow today. 

But they did fly.  There were dozens, probably hundreds, of balloons at the field.  Some were flying and, being balloons, you'd probably think that they'd drift with the winds toward the horizon and disappear.  But, if you thought that you'd be wrong.  Due to the topography of the venue, the winds near the ground blow in a different direction than the winds at higher elevations, which enables the balloons to drift away, then gain some altitude and return so the same balloons keep cycling around overhead.

It seemed as though as soon as someone took off, another pilot would move into the spot and start getting another one ready for flight and soon another balloon would take off and join the circling flock.

I also had expectations about how things would be run that turned out to be totally wrong.  I expected the balloons to take off from some designated area that would be off limits to the spectators but that wasn't the case at all.  The spectators are free to wander around where the balloons are being inflated and, in most cases, where they take off from.  If you wander to a point where you're in someone's way, they'll let you know, but, in general, you're allowed to wander right up to the balloons.  You can wander up and watch as one is inflated.  The owner might even let you walk into the balloon as it lies on its side half-inflated to take a look around.  After a balloon is vertical you can walk up and take pictures up into the balloon from right next to the basket as they fire the burners to get more lift.  You can stand downwind as a balloon lifts off and flies low over your head.  It's a much more interesting spectator sport than I ever imagined.

The balloons flew until the winds picked up.  We then left the venue for a few hours.  We came back in the evening for another Glow and a fireworks show.  The weather wasn't cooperating so not many balloons tried a Glow.  The few that did had to shut down shortly after starting due to increasing winds.

In spite of the high winds, the fireworks went off without a hitch. 
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