Posted by: Kirsten | Monday, 15 October 2007

Live from the International Balloon Fiesta

ABQ Balloon Fiesta

Although we did visit Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque today, I’m writing because of something else that happened to us, totally unexpectedly. So, we’re eating breakfast and watching many, many balloons prepare for the final mass ascension of the 2007 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and my wife says, “Hey, why don’t you guys go out and see if you can assist anyone with getting their balloon ready…”

So, my son and I headed across the massive field looking for someone who wanted and/or needed help getting ready for their launch.  We had done this back in May at the Preakness Festival near our home in Maryland, but the weather prevented the balloons from taking off (wind direction would have taken them toward restricted air space) so we didn’t get to experience everything we could have on that day.

Today, however would be different with the perfect weather we had before us.  After asking five balloon crews if they needed any help and getting rejected each time, we were getting a little DEjected ourselves.  We stood our ground and just scanned the field looking for someone with not many people present, and finally spotted a group fairly close by.  As circumstance would have it, we wound up just jumping in to help when it came time to pull the balloon out of its storage bag.  We dragged the bag away from the basket laying the balloon out in a straight line, and my son tucked the bag into the back of their trailer.  After the giant fan got the balloon partially filled, it was time to light the giant propane blowtorch and get some hot air going.  We pulled on the sides of the balloon to ensure that it didn’t billow inward during the heat-up, and then grabbed the basket as it was turned from horizontal to vertical to make sure it didn’t take off or bump into anything nearby.

Then, the pilot looked at my son, asked him his name, and asked if he wanted to fly today.  We both stood there for a few seconds in shock, and my son didn’t really answer.  I asked him if he wanted to go, and he said “Sure” but I could tell he was a bit nervous about it all.  Before I knew it he was climbing into the basket and after hearing the details of how I’d be able to keep track of where my son was (and get him back) I was dashing across the HUGE field to let my wife know what was going on.  I dashed back again to the chase vehicle and they were already aloft, heading north with hundreds of other balloons.  We followed along in the chase vehicle as they performed a “splash-and-dash” in the Rio Grande and eventually came down 15 miles from the takeoff point, in Coronado State Monument.

Once we got as close as we could to them, we all packed up the balloon and carried it across the cactus and brush, then went back for the basket and propane tanks.  Whew, what a day…!  It all goes to show how a little kindness can sometimes be returned in a big way. We’re very grateful to the Sundagger balloon crew and their generosity.  It gave my son an experience he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

— Jon

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