A Dream Deflated: Albuquerque Balloon Festival

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At 7:45 this morning it looked like I had flown out to New Mexico just to stand in the cold and be disappointed. Word had just come in on the Balloon Fiesta grounds that it was too windy to launch. So it seemed likely all I’d be seeing on my one day in town was pieces of fabric on the ground.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 hot air balloon set up

My flight last night was delayed getting in by 2 hours, which meant I had 3 and a half hours to check in to my hotel, sleep, and get myself to the shuttle bus by 5:30AM to see the Mass Ascension. Not exactly the thing dreams are made of.

But I’d done my homework and though there are many free places to watch the balloons, if you really want to get a feel for it, at least once you should be in the midst of them as they take off.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 food options

So at 6:30AM I found myself on the dimly lit grounds, threading my way through the food stands and hoping I hadn’t missed Dawn Patrol (the early balloons that go up to check conditions). I hadn’t. Nothing had gone up!

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Testing equipment

And at 7:45, the balloon operators I was hanging out next to let us know that no balloons were going up that morning.

Noooooooo. I was torn on waiting a little longer in the hopes they’d at least inflate the hot air balloons, but eventually decided to cut my losses and stay on my site-seeing schedule. On the way back to the bus though, I decided I should at least briefly wander through the art & craft section.

I got distracted by sign about the grilled cheese donut with bacon and green chile and decided I needed to try it. It wasn’t bad.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Grilled Cheese Donut Bacon Stand

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Grilled Cheese Donut Bacon

While I was munching disconsolately, I heard a cheer go up. They were inflating one of the hot air balloons. A giant cow.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Cow Hot Air Balloon

Within minutes the field started to come alive with gaily colored shapes rising from the grass.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 hot air balloons

And suddenly the whole atmosphere got festive! There was a roaring buzz of the flames heating the air. People were running back and forth, calling out as new characters and designs were spotted.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Field View

It was incredible.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Keri

Yoda was there.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Yoda Wicked Hot Air Balloon

So was Spider Pig.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014 Spider Pig Hot Air Balloon

I would have loved to be there when they all took off, but it was something just to be wandering around underneath those giant balloons and taking it all in, exhaustion and cold feet forgotten. It lasted for about 10 minutes and then the balloons started to sink.

Here’s hoping the evening balloons sail en mass right past my hotel 😉


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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel


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