Albuquerque Balloon Festival – First Morning

In early October Ellen and I with our friends the Buhler’s drove our RVs to Albuquerque for the annual balloon festival. Below is an edited version of my first morning report to family and friends.

We were up at 4:45AM for breakfast at 5:00AM with the other crazy people, including our friends and traveling companions Fred and Margie Buhler. We boarded a well used school bus that had seen better days at a tent covered pick point in the RV dry camp. Waiting for the bus to arrive we could see the stars twinkling through some high clouds, we could also see vehicle lights moving in the launch field below our elevation about a mile a way.

We quickly arrived at the at the entry point to the launch field, the bus using a dedicated road to bypass the 100s of cars at the gate. Our tickets were scanned by a cute young lady bundled in an oversized black goose down jacket against the morning cold.

We walked along a mile long treat street, with vendors selling donuts, coffee and breakfast burritos, and other gastric anomalies, including cheese and bacon fried donuts. At the midpoint we turned west on to the launch field, feeling our way in the dark with 100s of others doing the same. Watching not to step on the balloons preposition on the grassy field, as we had been warned it was a huge breach of ballon etiquette and a safety issue. Each ballon had been provided a spot on a launch grid.

Fred and Margie set off to take pictures, and we continued to stumble into the darkness on the uneven grass, stopping near a partially filled rainbow colored balloon. We heard a small engine cough to life and the balloon next to us started to shiver and undulate in the gloom. We followed the sound of the engine to watch launch preparation process. Air is forced in to the balloon before the burners are ignited to warm the air in the nylon envelope. With a boom the burners ignited and we moved farther into the shadows being cast by the emerging dawn. The rainbow colored balloon struggled to rise in the cooler air.

Soon we heard more blowers and more burners being tested and then filling nylon bags. In the predawn light, and the burner flashes, we could see we were surrounded by balloons that would soon be launching skyward. A once in a life time experience. As the sun rose over the mountain to the east we could see 100s of balloons of all shapes, sizes and configurations.


Ellen taking photos of the rising balloons. The one to the right with the wicker basket  is about to launch. 

Mass Assention over RVs

Mass of balloons rising overs the RV Park

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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