After yesterday's Balloon Fiesta events being cancelled, it wasn't sure if today would have any or not, it is all dependent on weather and wind conditions. There was still some wind, so they weren't sure if they would go up or not. However, this is how it was supposed to work.
At 5:45 a.m. several balloons go up to check wind conditions and direction etc. (it might not be the same in the air as it is on the ground). On a weekend morning, there is usually lots of traffic. Since this was the last Saturday and Friday had been cancelled we knew there would be lots of traffic, so we decided to get up at 4:45 a.m. and head over there in hopes of getting decent parking etc. Neither of us slept very well with the anticipation of such an early morning (plus it was cold last night and we forgot to turn on the heater, so we were chilly all night), but we dutifully got up when the Alarm went off, took care of Snuffles and Coco and piled into the truck.
It was pretty chilly 43* so we dressed in layers as recommended and took along our winter coats. Do you realize that at 5:00 a.m. in Albuquerque, New Mexico it is still pitch black out? Well, I'm here to tell you it is. We had made a mistake we rarely make in not checking out our route/map the day before in the daylight. . . yes, we followed it faithfully, but (you knew there would be a but there, didn't you?) started seeing signs almost right away "chase vehicles, crew and pilots only". Pitch dark "out in the country" so to speak, and not a clue where we're going, other than following other vehicles. Then we went under the road we thought we were supposed to be on but there was no way to get up on to it. Mr. C turned around and we went the other way but still couldn't find the right road, so he stopped and double checked the map and sure enough the way we were going in the first place "should" have been right. So, we turned around again (remember, big butt truck, tiny twisty windy road in the dark, LOL) and started following the other traffic again. Got to the gate where the vehicles were entering and knew we didn't belong there, so stopped and checked the map again, decided we had to go back and find another way to get there. We weren't laughing, we were frustrated, I was disappointed by this time it was already 5:30 (for what should have been a 5 minute drive???). I think Mr. C was about ready to just give up when we finally found a road we could take to go "around the block" and get onto the road we couldn't get onto the first time. Bumper to bumper traffic, slow, creeping along. Finally got to the Balloon Fiesta location and it's already 6 am, thinking we must have missed the Dawn Patrol completely, but the Mass Ascension is still on the schedule. Odd thing is that we don't see any sign of any Balloons in the air already, so we kept following the crowd and the police directions. We finally reached the area we had planned to park in and they had it set up so we had to basically make a U-turn to the left to get into parking. . . Not with Big Butt Truck, it's just not happening. So they finally backed us up and sent us on up the road to another parking area (which turned out to be a GOOD thing, much better location), It's still pitch black outside, but there are street lights here and there, so we follow the crowd to the Park. Our parking area is at the top of a very long hill. . . fortunately there are a few golf cart "shuttles" driving people down and we grabbed one. I remembered to take the camera. The lady driving our shuttle assures us they are going ahead with the Dawn Patrol. So far it appears the winds are just below 10 mph and as long as they aren't more than 10 mph they will have the Mass Ascension, BUT (I just hate BUTS) the wind higher up might be much different, so they held off the Dawn Patrol (we hadn't missed it after all, HOORAY!!!) to give the winds a chance to die back a bit.
Then, they are filled with just air (huge fans) until they are full and then they start applying heat (probably propane fire), and they slowly rise into the air, although they are still tethered to the ground, just upright. The spectators are all over the place, so close we could touch the balloons (and some people did, although we didn't think we should). Slowly a whole line of balloons along that walk (all part of the Dawn Patrol were being filled). Remember it was dark, so the next pictures show that. . . I can't believe I actually was able to take any decent pictures at all.
You can just see the sun rise starting behind the balloons. As the balloons are filled, they each rise to an upright position and then the most exciting part occurred.
Do you remember me mentioning the "Glowdeo" we missed on Friday, due to the weather? Well, apparently (I wish we had gotten some kind of souvenir book to have explained all this, but we didn't, so all I can do is tell what we saw). So, apparently, they add something to the propane that makes the balloons light up or glow from the inside. Oh, by the way, the blue and white striped balloon, we think, is from Peoria, IL (for those of you who read this from "home). This photo was taken while nearly standing on another balloon laid out on the ground across the walkway from these balloons, because it was still too dark to see the ground we were walking on (the one on the ground above). I kept using Mr. C's head for a tripod for the camera as the setting I had to use to get these to show up at all took a LONG time and you couldn't shake or the picture was all fuzzy. People were laughing at my "portable tripod", but it worked.
Back to the explanation: The way the Fiesta works is that they have morning activities nothing in the afternoon and on the weekends have evening activities, including "glows" where they fill the balloons, keep them tethered and light them up or make them glow. They don't fly at night, it would be dangerous and hard to find them for the chase teams. The catch is that unless you want to spend all afternoon there doing nothing but "shopping" (it's a lot like a huge State Fair). You have to pay parking twice and admission twice (once for each session). As well as drive back and forth and find parking etc., which as I explained above was a nightmare (or would that be morning mare?)
On Friday (at least the Friday we missed due to the weather), the am session was to be the specialty/novelty shaped balloons (cartoons, etc.) rather than just the standard balloon shaped balloons. The pm session was to be the shaped ballons tethered to the ground and glowing (the "Shape Glowdeo"). Friday was supposed to be the only day for the shaped balloons, which, since we didn't even get to Albuquerque until noon and the weather was bad, meant we would miss the shapes all together and the "glowdeo" due to the weather, unless we wanted to go twice. Once at 5:45 am and again from 4 pm to 9 pm (which most of you know, Mr. C and I don't do "late" or nights). Plus we knew we'd probably be with "the folks" in the late afternoon early evening. So, poohy, we'd miss the spectacle of the glow all together. BUT. . . and this is a good but for once. . .
and the second glow and the second balloon upright, appropriately, the American Flag.
When they first start being filled (by the big fans, we were surprised to find that both ends are "open" like a huge tube. As the balloon starts to fill, the crew attaches the top center piece with what appears to just be velcro strips??? Sorry this isn't a more clear picture, remember it was dark and the balloon was moving as it was being filled.
Now I'll just post several pictures of what we saw as we watched the day come alive in amazement.
Balloons off into the sunrise:
More taking off:
Then we saw the Chesire Cat balloon:
Some other things I learned: I spoke with a man whose family is quite involved in the balloning fun. He told me some things (which I'll repeat) but then told me I was lucky I hadn't asked his mother, as apparently she was somebody big at Channel 3 when the Balloon Fiesta was first started and had been involved ever since and in fact had written a book about the history of The Balloon Fiesta and I would have been subjected to the full 40 years of Fiesta history, LOL.
At this point, I was waiting for Mr. C to get back from his trek up the very long, steep hill to the truck to get the extra camera batteries I had forgotten. So I had plenty of time to ask my questions. Mr. C says this is the biggest crowd he can ever remember being in, he was afraid to leave me (even knowing exactly where I was) because he was afraid he'd not be able to find me again.
The man I was speaking with said the balloons we had just watched were the Dawn Patrol as I explained above. The next batch (the group one just below) was the large basket balloons giving people rides (well, not giving, they cost an arm and a leg, LOL).
Then after that would be the Mass Ascension with hundreds of balloons taking off one after another to fill the sky.
I had over heard him talking with his sons about their Uncle looking at a particular balloon, as his current balloon had not passed the inspection this year, but after all it was 15 years old and that is about as long as you can expect them to last. The balloon he was looking at buying was $15,000.00 USED!!! He went on to explain the costs of ballooning, the balloon just being the tip of the iceberg. . . insurance, chase vehicles, the basket, the fans and heating elements, transport for the balloon and basket etc. WOW!!!!