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Old 10-04-2011, 10:33 PM   #183
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Saturday:

It was surreal. Thousands of people milling about on a very large field in the dark at 5:30 am. Along one side of the field were concessions selling all sorts of food. The local favorites are breakfast burritos. This area was lighted, but it still felt like the middle of night.

Just as dawn started to break 11, balloons ascended to test the wind patterns above the field. At low altitudes the winds were from the north and higher up, from the south. Once aloft, the balloons would drift south and then come back as they arose and go somehere NW of Albuquerque.. it looked like they went to the sprawling suburb of Rio Rancho. This is called the box—winds that allow the balloons go back and forth over the field. At certain altitudes, they can stay stationery.

But first they had to inflate the balloons. They blow them up with a fan and then turn on the propane burners to heat the air inside the balloon until it stands up. The temperature differential has to be around 100˚ for this to work and that is easier to do at dawn when the air is coolest. When the officials give the ok, they launch. When the balloons are heated, the propane jets glow and light up the balloon. Sometimes they all burn at once.

Once they have checked the winds, and it becomes light enough, you see scores of balloons being inflated and you hear the propane jets going on and off all around you. On a cold morning, it pays to stand near them to warm up. The Mass Ascension starts around 7 am and goes for a couple of hours. Balloons launch in groups or individually and there are scores visible at once. There are supposed to be 700 or 600 or some amount of balloons, but they can’t all inflate at once. The field is enormous, but it is packed with balloons, spectators, trucks and vans. What adds to the excitement is we could mjill around the balloons, gondolas anywhere on the field—don’t step on a balloon or a rope.

On Friday morning one hit the top of an Airstream and left a dish shaped dent and a scrape on the roof. First time that has happened.

In the afternoon, the Four Corners Unit of the WBCCI had a potluck for 200 people and it was a success. After that, we returned to the field for Twilight Twinkle Glow where hundreds of balloons inflated and burned their jets to light up the field. It was another amazing sight as balloons twinkled in random patterns. No one ascended except the 8 gas balloons. These are either helium or hydrogen filled white balloons that race to see who will go furthest. They left in the dark and were last seen going north. Some made it over to Colorado’s Front Range by this morning and seemed to be headed for Montana.

Photos:

1. The crowd looking for breakfast burritos, fried Twinkies, fried anything and Portapotties.

2. Dawn Patrol balloons getting ready to go up just before dawn.

3. Balloon overhead with jets burning.

4. By 7 am, lots of balloons inflating at once.

Gene
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Old 10-04-2011, 10:43 PM   #184
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More:

1. One of the largest gondolas below the balloon. The large ones take riders and get somewhere around $400 each.

2. Special Shapes are balloons made into characters of various kinds, animals and other things like a haunted house.

3. Another special shape.

4. Balloons being blown up, launched, being prepared to inflate and crowds milling around.

Gene
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Old 10-04-2011, 10:52 PM   #185
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More:

1. Balloons getting ready to launch.

2. The Little Bees getting ready to launch.

3. Launched.

4. Darth Vader with many balloons in the background.

Gene
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:21 PM   #186
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Surreal, indeed.

Thanks for posting. This destination event is on my AS bucket list.
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:34 PM   #187
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Hi, Gene. Thank you for sharing your experience at the Balloon Fiesta. Your pictures are great too. Wish we could have gone too, but maybe another time/year. Even thought it's always the same, it's always different. The Balloon Fiesta was our most expensive Rally and the most fun/interesting. We bought our generator and a new Canon DSLR for that trip. Another reason that we couldn't make it was because we signed up for the Jackson Rancheria Rally, about one year ago, and it would be too much to travel from Albuquerque to Northern California in a few days. We leave for this Rally, Thursday morning. Expecting about 42 Airstreams there. Also back then we didn't know we were going to inherit Boo-Boo. [Dusty]
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Old 10-05-2011, 05:31 AM   #188
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Sunday:

We got up long before dawn again—I woke at 4 am, something I only do every decade or so, and Barb got up sometime after. We stumbled into our clothes, ate a muffin and drank some orange juice to fortify ourselves and set out for the field in the dark.

The 11 Dawn Patrol balloons were already inflated and waiting for the signal to launch at first light. The balloons were lined up in a row with their burners lighting from time to time and sometimes all at once. Winds were lighter today and the balloons did the box—going south first, then rising and moving north north west, but staying a lot closer than yesterday as light winds kept them in sight. Some returned over the field and one landed. One thing they have to watch for are a bunch of radio towers on the west side of the field; no one hit them. And to the south are corporate tents on a hill and somke balloons just clear them; last year one hit a tent.

At 7, our second mass ascension began and everyone was a lot more organized than yesterday. Hundreds of balloons were soon in the sky and with the light winds, many stayed in sight and were aloft over the field. We hung out for a while on the north end where there were far fewer people, then found Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers. The Storm Troopers were dressed in traditional white plastic uniforms except for two in black and one in camouflage. They didn’t bring their weapons and were a lot friendlier than I expected. I didn’t see them kill anyone.

The other crowd favorite is The Little Bees. Yesterday Joey and Lilly launched without problems but Baby Bee didn’t make it very far. Today Joey and Baby launched, but Lilly wasn’t there. Some years Joey and Lilly hold hands for a while and even kiss, but not this year.

We got our Breakfast Burritos before dawn and again ate in the dark, not really sure what we were eating.. After the Mass Ascension, they had a car show. Most of the cars were post-WW II, and there were few from the 20’s and 30’s. Most of them were drivers, thus not of show quality. We did see a few interesting classics. We returned to the Airstream enclave, hung out for a while, then took a nap.

Weather has been good. No rain, some wind gusts one afternoon caused a rush to stow the awnings. Daytime temps in the low ‘80’s and nigthtime lows in the mid-50’s. The skies were clear for a few days and then broken high clouds well above the balloons. Close to ideal. I’m really happy with the new camera. It took good photos in the dark and is smarter than I am in setting speed and aperature.

Photos:

1. Dawn Patrol balloons lined up and close to taking off.

2. The Intel balloon was every where. I tried to avoid taking photos of the commercial balloons, but this shot during a burn in the dark was too good to miss.

3. Six burning at once.

4. Barb with her new friend.

Gene
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Old 10-05-2011, 05:33 AM   #189
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Sick of balloon photos yet? More are coming, but it is time to go back to sleep. It has been raining all night here in Santa Fe. Last time we were here, it rained too. We are good for NM's drought.

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Old 10-05-2011, 08:03 AM   #190
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More photos:

1. More balloons getting reading to launch.

2. Darth Vader being flamed.

3. Balloons everywhere.

4. Airabelle the cow.

Gene
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Old 10-05-2011, 08:09 AM   #191
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And more:

1. Beer bottle.

2. The witch appears to be riding on Smokey's hat.

3. Weird elephant; maybe this is a cartoon character I have no knowledge of.

4. Pig with sunglasses; this is to be distinguished from "When Pigs Fly".

More later….

Gene
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:43 AM   #192
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Great pictures!

Thanks for sharing.


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Old 10-05-2011, 12:19 PM   #193
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More and more:

1. This one is for Bob Cross—looks like his Ford. It was at the car show at the Fiesta.

2. An angry bee.

3. Monday morning the balloons come over the Airstream compound.

4. Balloons lighting up at Twilight Twinkle.

Gene
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Old 10-05-2011, 12:29 PM   #194
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It's endless:

1. I can't remember if this is the pre-dawn display or twilight.

2. Heating up a balloon.

3. One of the two Zia balloons. This one is sponsored by the state. Albuquerque's is yellow on red.

4. The Little Bees an the Haunted House among others come over the Airstreams on Monday morning.

Gene
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Old 10-05-2011, 12:40 PM   #195
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Guess what?

1. Monday morning.

2. A cop.

3. The one in the background came down just beyond the RV's next to us and the one in the foreground came down a little further along.

4. Tuesday morning as people were leaving scores of balloons came overhead. Because the corporate tents are higher than the field and we were even higher, the balloons had to gain altitude quickly and some landed behind us and one landed between 2 Airstreams to our east.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:40 PM   #196
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Makes me want to go see it.


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