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I haven't been everywhere yet,

but it's on my list!

  • Writer's pictureDeborah Latham

Up Up & Away - Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

What a magical experience the Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is! Teresa was online and ready to get our RV spot the day the released the spots. She wanted to get space for the weekend, but the queue was long and the dates were booked, so we ended up getting Mon-Wed nights. We were lucky to get the West lot which is just a short .8 mile walk to the launching field. We got all checked in on Monday and went to bed early because the morning activities start very early! Unfortunately, there are no night activities Mon-Wednesday so we never got to see a night session.

Day 1 - The weather was crisp and cool but absolutely perfect! Dawn patrol launches bright and early to go up and check the winds and make sure all is good for the mass ascension. We got the field about 5:30 a.m. to watch the dawn patrol blow up their balloons. It was amazing to watch the teams set up the fans to fill the balloons with air before they started using the propane flames to use the hot air to lift them upright. I won't lie, it was great to get up close to the base of the balloons as the flames burst and warm up a little! We were able to walk up to the baskets of the balloons and look up into them and take pictures before they ascended into the sky, floating above us lighting up the dark sky with bursts of flames.

As the night turned to day, the clouds turned pink with the rising sun, making the perfect backdrop for the hundreds of balloons preparing to ascend into the beautiful clear blue skies above us. The first balloon to ascend carried the American Flag, while the Star Spangled Banner was sung, then it was time for the mass ascension. There was a sense of excitement as each balloon rose to its upright position showing off brilliant colors and whimsical shapes. The Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta app helped us know the names of the balloons. Pictured above is Cynthia Seal! Special Shapes day was not until Thursday morning (our day of departure), however, some of them flew each day, which was amazing to see! We stopped on the Balloon Fiesta Main Street where the vendors are set up for some donuts and coffee and then strolled through rows of balloons taking pictures and videos and just enjoying the beauty of the balloons lifting into the sky.

There were competitions and races each day, and it was fun to watch the balloonists descend to drop their markers from the air trying to get closest to their targets. We watched some landings before heading back to the camper to make a big breakfast while watching the last few balloons still in the air!

Day 2 - We were lucky to wake up to clear skies and no wind again! Our day started just like Day 1 did, with dawn patrol blowing up and ascending before the mass ascension began. There were even more balloons going up this day, including several Special Shape balloons we had not seen yet! We took chairs to sit and watch the ascension, but I was too excited to sit still much! Our favorite balloon was Smokey Bear since we are from East TN in the Smoky Mountains. I would like to take a second here to give a special shout-out to Red Eye Printing for making us these awesome shirts! We got so many compliments and people asking which vendor we got them from. I think some were disappointed we got them at home before we left and they couldn't just go buy one while they were there!

Pictures can never do justice to the scenes that unfolded before us on this day. As pretty as the pictures are, there's nothing like standing there listening to the sounds of the balloons and watching them gently float away hovering in the air right above you and all around you. No matter which direction you looked there were so many balloons in the sky it was almost overwhelming.

hot air balloon mass ascension
Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Festival Mass Ascension

I took so many pictures, that there is no way I can share them all, and it is so hard choosing my favorites. I especially loved all the Special Shape Balloons. It's just so cool to see these characters fly above you! If you look at the pictures below, you will notice a balloon with the Wales flag on it. Pay close attention, and you will notice that there is no basket on that balloon. He was flying in just a seat, swinging his legs and looking like he was having the best time of his life! I wish I could've seen him land, but I lost sight of him way before then!

Overall, Day 2 was even better than Day 1 and I didn't think it could get any better than that!

Day 3 - Thursday morning arrived with high winds in the forecast. We were disappointed because this was departure day, and we had planned to stay throughout the day to see the special shapes balloons go up. However, safety first and the balloons were grounded. The dawn patrol didn't even go up in the air, however, they blew up and stayed on the ground. This was a great opportunity to talk to some of the pilots and also to get cards from the crews of the different balloons. If you go to the balloon fiesta, each balloon has cards available, and it is fun to collect them! We were able to talk for an awhile with one of the dawn patrol pilots who explained a lot about the difference between flying on the propane and the vapors and flying in formation touching fabric with other balloons. We asked a lot of questions which he was gracious enough to answer. He even showed us pictures of himself piloting a balloon with a tight rope walker between him and another balloon with no tethers, just a base jump parachute in case of a fall!

Before the winds got too high, a lot of the special shapes balloons blew up and we wandered through the field getting pictures and cards from the crew members. It was still a great morning even though no balloons could go up. Some of the balloons had special characters on the ground, our favorite being the Star Wars group! They were so much fun!

As the morning progressed, the winds picked up and some of the balloons deflated before we even got a chance to get to them. But, we had a great time trying to get to as many as we could before they all had to come down. Here are some of my favorites:

As the winds were going to be even higher throughout the day, we knew we weren't missing anything by not staying for the evening session. We decided to go ahead and get on the road back towards home. We saw later that they couldn't even do the evening glow because the winds were so high. This picture describes my feelings perfectly on having to leave the festival! I'm always sad to see an adventure end. I want to thank Rick and Teresa for inviting us on this amazing trip in their beautiful RV. It was an experience we will forever be grateful for! If you ever have the chance to go to the Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, I highly recommend it! It is a wonderful festival to attend!

1 Comment

Oct 25, 2023

These are truly incredible! Kudos to the designers and makers of the special shapes (they must cost a fortune!).

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