Posts Tagged ‘Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta’

Breathing Fire over Our Airstream

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

A fire-breathing dragon is hovering over my bed, or so it seems.

My eyes pop open. “Is there a hot-air balloon right over the Airstream?” I ask Fred. “Yes, a bunch of them,” he replied. “Where’s the camera?” he asks as he heads to the door.

Firing off his gas flame to gain a bit more lift, the hot-air balloon pilot overhead serves as a curious alarm clock. I snatch on some clothes and head for the door. Circling over our Airstream travel trailer are a sea of hot air balloons.

We’ve been on the balloon field prior to dawn for a few days in a row now and then back on the field for balloon glow and fireworks at night. Today rather than walking down the hill to the balloon launch field we are scheduled to hook up and leave the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta* so to we slept until almost 7 AM.

Over the sea of Airstreams is a magical show of color and movement as hundreds of hot air balloons waltz through the sky. Working the box effect, air currents fairly unique to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the balloons move one direction at one altitude and another direction at a different altitude. Most seem to be circling a large area centered over the flight field. Some drift aloft off into the distance.

Over the days we’ve been here balloons take off, land, and compete in various games. Food vendors selling everything from breakfast burritos and funnel cakes to sandwiches line the “Main Street” at the Balloon field. Native American jewelry and craft vendors join official Fiesta souvenir vendors as well as a multitude of others. In the early morning and evening the so called Main Street is a shoulder-to-shoulder experience.

Diversified events ranging from chainsaw carving to concerts add variety to the week’s events. But of course the best part is the balloons. Young and young-in-spirit smile as colorful, fanciful shapes come to life and overcome gravity. Cheers ring out as each balloon takes flight.

If you have never been…go!

If you have an Airstream recreational vehicle go to the WBCCI rally and stay on the Fiesta grounds. It is dry camping (no hook ups) but it puts you in the middle of the activity. If you stay off the grounds, stay close by and be prepared to get up at 4:30 AM to get through heavy traffic and see the events. Dawn Patrol starts at 5:45 AM and many days the morning’s events are over by 9:00 AM. Competition days run a bit longer. Balloons don’t fly in the afternoon. Evening events include balloon glows and fireworks. It is a big plus to be on the grounds.

See the links in my previous post for details.

Find out about the Dawn Patrol at the Fiesta.

* NOTE: This Balloon Fiesta is a huge event held in Albuquerque, New Mexico and tickets are available to the public. In conjunction with the public event, the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) which is an Airstream RV owners’ club, sponsors a special events rally for its members. We were attending the larger event by attending the rally which is held on the grounds of the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The rally lasted four of the nine days of the Fiesta.

View from our Airstream dinette.

View from our Airstream dinette.

Dawn Patrol at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Brrrr…It’s 5:45 AM and 37 degrees in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lights from vendors brighten our path as we weave our way through the sea of people to the sound of loud speaker announcements. The Dawn Patrol on the first day of the 42nd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been slightly delayed due to the breeze.

Reluctantly I hand over $4.00 for a cup of coffee hoping it will return circulation to my hands and warm my cockles. Word blasts out that all but one ballon in the Dawn Patrol is ready to launch so we move as quickly as we can through the crowd to reach the gigantic grass field.

All of us here are privileged. This is the only hot air balloon festival in the world where observers can walk all over the field and right up to the balloons while the balloons are being set up and launched.

About twelve balloons make up the forerunner group known as the dawn patrol. By watching their early launch the other balloonists get a sense of wind direction and speeds at different altitudes. As dawn breaks the official Fiesta balloon takes the lead and launches to the tune of the National Anthem as it trails a large American flag beneath its gondola.

Whoosing flames add heat to each balloon. Slowly the remaining Dawn Patrol balloons take flight. It is a exciting sight.

We are here attending the WBCCI International Balloon Fiesta Special Events Rally along with 199 other Airstreams. The rally centers on the local event and has prime, (although no hook-ups) VIP parking adjacent to the balloon field.

More coming soon on the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the rally.

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About the Author

I'm Renee Ettline. For twenty-something years my husband Fred and I have been Airstreamers. Since 2005 I've been writing for Airstream Life magazine on every topic from destinations and lifestyle to rivets and tires. Currently you'll find me in a section called, "Living the Life." We've Airstreamed from Alaska to Florida and California to Nova Scotia and loved every minute.