It’s 4am on a Saturday morning and I’m wide awake. My camera bag is packed and I’m about to leave the comforts of my hotel. I’m not an early riser but when a photo opportunity presents itself, I’ll be the first one out of bed. Good morning everyone! I’m headed to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!
The fiesta, the largest one of it’s kind in the world, is held in Albuquerque during the first few days of October. Today marks the first day of nine scheduled days for the fiesta. Initially I, along probably many tourists and residents, was worried the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Just a few hours before, Mother Nature was showing us she might not be providing us agreeable weather for the first launch. But despite our fears, Saturday morning proved to be a wonderful first day to welcome these beautiful, colorful balloons.
Upon my arrival at the fiesta, I was greeted by crowds of people, most of whom seem to have opted to drive rather than take the shuttles provided by the City. Needless to say, traffic was a nightmare. Regardless, I was excitedly anticipating the first launch of the balloons. The minute I crossed the entry gates, I felt like a kid again as I rushed to the first balloon I saw, Airabelle the Cow.
Unlike other balloon festivals in the country, spectators are allowed to be on the launch field where they are provided access to the rare opportunity to observe inflation and take off procedures. I’ve only really seen these balloons from a distance. Up close, it’s a whole different view! These beautiful balloons are at least 30 feet tall. It takes a crew of more than 15 people to setup the balloon and help tether them to the ground. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the morning glow which was scheduled for 6.30am.
As I walked around the grounds from one balloon to the next, I think the biggest draw for most people here are the “special-shaped” balloons. I believe the most famous of them are the Little Bees – Joey and Lilly and their “little baby” Joelly. The biggest draws of “oohs and ahhs” had to be the Dark Sith Lord himself, Darth Vader. It was quite funny actually as a little kid tried to walk up to a guy in a Darth Vader costume and he started speaking in French (the pilot and his team handling the Vader balloon are from Belgium). The kid, in utter disbelief, ran back to his mom and said “I didn’t realize he was French”!
If you’ve never experienced a balloon fiesta such as this, I highly recommend it. It’s a great chance for some great photo opportunities and it’s a great way to be a kid once again! In keeping with a long tradition of balloonists, here is the prayer they recited just prior to launch.
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
Here are some of the images I captured that morning. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed capturing them. Stay tuned for the entire gallery to be posted.