A Bunch of Hot Air


A Bunch of Hot Air

Since 2014 I have traveled to Albuquerque in October for the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  2020 it became the Balloon Siesta like so many public activities affected by covid.  So, this was my 8th one and 50th anniversary.  What makes this even more special for me, is I go with my longest friend.  We have palled around since the 1970's.  The Balloon Fiesta is one of those things that bring out the kid in you and going with a great friend only makes it more childlike in joy and wonder and laughter.


We learned a secret the first year we went.  The fiesta draws over 100,000 people a day.  If you get separated in that crowd it can take a while to find each other.  Both of us are 6'2.  Add in a foot and half decorated with pins from the fiesta's past and viola.  100,000 people away I can still see him.  And it adds a lot to the fun and childlike frivolity.    Growing old is going to happen regardless, growing up is optional.


It rained more on this trip than all the other trips combined so our first day we sat and visited with other travelers who came to enjoy the balloons.  We met the most amazing lady.  I had to text June (my sweetie about her):

Jim:  June I met the most amazing lady with the greatest sense of humor and most incredible blue eyes.  She has just captured my heart."

June:  "It is too early for you to be drinking what are you talking about." 

SO I sent her a selfie with the wonderful soul I was talking with. This wonderful 82-year young lady cemented something I believe about traveling.  It's not so much the things you see that make travel magic as the people you meet.  She knew so much about New Mexico in the 1940s.  And this is one bit of advice to folks that go to the Balloon Fiesta, talk to the folks around you.  There is so many wonderful stories and knowledge right around you.


The next day the weather was perfect.  And every morning before the day, they launch the Dawn Patrol.  These balloons not only thrill the views while glowing in the dark morning sky.  But they map the wind currents making flights easier for those balloons who follow them.

The balloon glow is one of my favorite things to photograph.  It's a bit tricky, after all that back sky wants to fool your camera.  A photographer's tip for you experienced photographers: it's very much like photographing the moon.  But there is some magic about those colors and glow against the night sky.

On the Day we went, the Special Shapes were the feature.  That doesn't mean normal shaped balloons didn't go up, but there are more special shapes.  It was still misting and raining a tad bit off and on but no wind and so many of the balloons went up.  The sky lent itself to a different kind of photo than I have done before.  The sky was dramatic and seemed ominous compared to the happy shapes and colors.

I must confess about the photo under here with the rain bow.  There was no rain bow but rather I had a big Ol rain spot on my lens.  I tried to fix it in photoshop but ended up just smearing it and turning it into a rainbow.  But I like it so I left it and it seemed to match the mood,.

Some of the shapes are mind blowing like the sloth below.  And when they are inflated 3 and 4 stories above or better floating through the air, it is like being in the bottom of a giant's toy box.  One can't help but feel like a child and look upon the world with wonder.

After the morning flight, there is not much going on at the Fiesta Grounds. But Albuquerque is so full of things to do and explore.  But don't take too long because the fiesta starts again near sundown.  Food and music.  Usually, they have some sort of opening to the night's activities.  On this day, the sky divers bring Ol Glory down from on high with the grandest of style.

Before the Night events they usually have some sort of entertainment like these amazing sky divers.  Often, they have music but always they have an amazing firework display but this year they also had a drone show which was amazing Check out my video on my YouTube channel.

Balloon Fiesta Drone Show

The couple in the above photo are Walt and Nacy.  They sat with us.  Walt is a decorated Viet Nam Vet with 20 years under his belt.  Nancy and him just started dating in their 80's and let me tell you they have more joy and life and were having more fun than the kids.  


I am already ready to go again and sad I have to wait another year.