01 October 2011, the first day's total of 345 launched Per Hour, set some kind of record we are told.
It occurred on the first official day, Saturday of last week. Friday 30 September was the 'ABQ Aloft' day for anxious ballonists desiring to launch from many selected schools around the city. Kids love that exciting day. An avg of about 500 balloons attend the Fiesta lately. During the glory days of US and world prosperity in years past, the total peaked at around 1000.
The latest week's supposed avg of 'attendees' based on recent years, is about 750,000. This years official figure has not yet been released. I heard it said that the nation's prosperity can almost be judged by the number of balloons seen at events like this.
The city sponsored bus rides are mostly the best way to get to and from the daily events. Long lines are normal, waiting for the busses. It is stop and go for cars if you decide to brave the traffic in the early morning of 'O dark 30' hour. Busses get a fast route into the field, making the entry much more convenient.
They launch the first balloon 'Patrol' at the crack of pre-dawn. Daily exhibits from stunt planes to sky divers, including 'Aluminum Overcast' historic B-17 taking rides, fill the hours after all the balloons have landed, some balloons, depending on the wind and their altitude, come to ground pretty far away.
With winds at times rising in speed later in the morning as the sun comes into it's power, landings are often an excitement brewing, tricky 'Balloon Drag' event at times taking out power lines. Sometimes hanging for a long time over a busy intersection, while the power companies on alert come to their rescue, or getting entangled in trees. Not many dull moments around town during the Balloon Fiesta. :>)
The ABQ 'BOX' is one reason that attracts the big event to ABQ. It is a phenomena of cooler and warmer air currents that, depending on altitudes dialed in, continously recycles the 'smartest' piloted balloons back over the field, once in the air. :>)
The international balloons are interesting in their various themes not often seen around ABQ, which has balloons in the sky almost every day, somewhere locally. International visitors are always in the crowds as well. This year several people from China have made the observer's trip based on reports of the colors and excitement, eventually reaching China. No doubt that eventually China will send envoys to represent their own individual freedoms and prosperity.
If you have not been to a really big Balloon gathering that lasts for a week, I would suggest that you visit ABQ's balloon 'fever' at least one time in your life. One visiting woman told a reporter that it was number two on her 'Bucket' list. :>)
The 'special shapes', like a giant black and white Cow and the two big Bees that hold hands, keep people fascinated as well as Darth Vader (kids all cheer as he is launched). The giant castle nor the huge Cinderella Coach was not here this year. Disney often times brings them here to NM for the Fiesta, the biggest balloon event in the world. Special Shapes are usually brought by business that can afford to support the expensive endeavers. Less business profit, less balloons, especially special shapes.
Kodak used to be the major sponsor, due to the amount of film used in capturing the pictures that comprised the most phographed event in the world. With the advent of the digital image industry leaving them all but out of the picture, they wisely opted out.
The huge field itself, irrigated by water pumped from the Rio Grande River, is really big and grassy....now. For years it was held on various dirt lots aroung the city. Even a shopping center for the first one with fewer than a dozen balloons. Now it is a massive dedicated space north of town with a museum and venues for outdooor events available year around including an amphitheater.
RV'ers are encouraged to attend by having several dedicated areas, some with 'hook-ups', many more with 'dry' camping but serviced by suppliers of neccessities such as 'honey dippers' and water trucks. Venders of every imaginable type of memorabilia and item that can be sold, line the long main promenade. No shortage of items for RV's and camping due to 'Camping World' having a large tent near the RV park.
Evening 'Glows' are popular to see the lighted ballons at tether. Rides are always available for a fee. Balloon Pin and card collections keep folks interested in the event. the international Gas balloons attract a different crowd. You may recall the International news about the Loss and eventual recovery month's later, of the Abruzo Gas Balloon last year over the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy?
Food is the least of the concerns during this event. The variety of vendors serving every imaginable culture's tasty treats keeps a hungry person almost confused as to choice. :>) A couple were even married at the park. Wonder how often that happens? Groups are always entertaining at the ampitheater and in the main promenade tents and stages. After a day attending and walking, sleep is no problem. Kids are often lost during the glorious chaos of the launches and eventually found. Kids comprise a large portion of the polite and considerate, fun loving crowds.
Las Golendrinas (the Swallows) is a re-enactment Spanish village from the 1700's into recent times. It is just 10 miles south of Santa Fe, about 50 miles north of ABQ. The re-enactors set up the little village as it was about 300 to 100 years ago. Bread baked in 'hornos' (round dome adobe ovens), to chile harvest/roast and wheat ground by a restored waterwheel driven mill from the late 1800's.
Corn stalks 'rolled' by donkey driven rolling mill to extract the sorghum for molasses, to hand spun thread and colorful cloth woven by hand on old looms. Domestic animals are seen roaming the area. Kids enjoy that part. The quality organic (that's the way it was) items produced are often marketed to anxious buyers, just as back in 'The Day'. Art is always on display and for sale, that's just Santa Fe..
Spring planting is another of their seasonal re-enactments, as well as numerous other art and craft exhibits during the year. Entertainment is always ongoing with Spanish dancers from young children, to adults with years of experience. Grapes are harvested for juice and wine making in the old tried and true fashion of the time. It is a trip into the past and family enjoyable for at least a day.
All in all this beautiful fall harvest week around the state has been loaded with activites to keep anyone from being bored. The Greek Festival is another great way to spend a day during Balloon Fiesta. Dancing and food are always on the list of their 'To Do's. The fact that the New Mexico State Fair 'Expo NM' was just culminating, only adds to the long list. Hawk Watch is starting. Held twice a year in the Manzano Mountains, it is also an educational experience to attend.
Open House Thunderbird Precision Flying Demonstrations
The large exhibits of walk through 'on ground' aircraft technology including a longevity incredible (1960's technology), active duty Boeing B-52 H 'Stratofortress'
See ya some day when your bucket list includes perpetually sunny New Mexico on it's rapidly tightening schedule. You cannot pick a more interesting, event intensive time than Fall..:>)
Blogengeezer, the admittedly amatuer reporter of the 'Haps' here ABQ NM, located in the 'Land of Enchantment' of the Great Southwest. The United States of America, Land of the Free, "One Nation Under God" :>)