Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Thursday, October 12, 2017

46th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Part 2 of 6 - Dawn, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

For nine days in early October, an extravaganza unlike anything I've ever seen unfolds in the mile-high city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This blog post is Part 2 of a multi-part series about my recent experience there. Part 1 covered the pre-dawn activity. As many as 500 balloons may participate in this ritual every morning in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

I love this first image - the official Fiesta balloon illuminated from within, without, and the American flag glowing, too.

 (Click on an image to view a higher resolution version if your device supports that action).

The nearly full moon still shines brightly as the morning sun is about to rise over the top of the Sandia Mountains to the east of the launch area.

The intermittent cacaphony of propane burners and whirring fans sounds like a mechanical symphony as the fleet continues inflation and preparation for launch.

And thousands of us spectators roam at will among the drama.

A "hot air balloon" as a title is slightly misleading.  It's not that the air is hot per se, rather, it is simply warmer than the surrounding air thus creating the ability for the envelope full of it to rise within the cooler air mass. The pilot manages this difference by firing the burners to control climb and descent rates.

The referee-striped person is a launch director/zebra.  There were scores of them roaming the field, coordinating and clearing each pilot for launch using a combination of radio, whistle, hand signals, and raised voice. They all seemed to wear the same jersey but the hats were individualized in many cases as you'll see over the course of this blog series.

Clearing the path for launch.....

.....and off they go to the hoots, hollers, cheers, and applause of the spectators.

Prepping the basket, testing the propane connections and burners.

Another launch director/zebra clears the launch zone and gives the thumbs-up release to the pilot who fires his burners to start to climb.

Still another friendly launch director/zebra - nice hat and a great smile!

Constant activity in the area as each flight crew orchestrates the dance of preparation and launch across the 78-acre grassy launch zone (about the size of 56 American football fields).

One of the many special shapes.

While I am not fond of in-your-face-advertising, I do recognize that the success of this event is dependent upon the 165 commercial sponsors who, along with public entrance fees and parking, provide a great deal of the funding.

Soon, the sun will breech the top of the mountain range and bathe the field in bright and warm sunlight - it will be most welcome after the morning chill.

The moon was a special added treat for the event.

And what an amazing event it was!

Some folks might not think that the slow-motion activity of ballooning would be very exciting but, they would be so wrong. The scale of this event is overwhelming and thrilling beyond expectation. I walked about 15,000 steps over a few hours on this morning as I tried to be everywhere and see everything at once. In retrospect, that might not have been the best strategy since as I scrambled from one area to another among thousands of people in semi-darkness, I missed other things I might have enjoyed by staying relatively in place. The age-old dilemma - marry one person or date many forever?

But there were as many as 500 balloons being spread out on the grassy field and in various stages of inflation and launch - the whoosh of the propane burners, the whirring of fans blowing the warmed air into the balloon envelope/bag, the hint of dawn approaching over the adjacent 10,000 feet high Sandia mountains - I just had to see it all and be everywhere at once - I felt like a ten-year-old just brimming with barely contained excitement and enthusiasm.

You just can't imagine the thrill of being here - it's like the difference between watching skiing on television and flying down the slope yourself on skis or, watching a spring rain through the window versus walking among the warm falling drops.

Yep, this is definitely a bucket list kind of peak life event.

Stay tuned - more blog posts coming...........daylight images and then the evening stationary glow!

No comments:

Post a Comment