First, I’m going to back up a bit from where Lauren left off with some of my pictures from Morning Glow and Mass Ascension, both of which were soooo beautiful and awe-inspiring.
One of my strongest impressions of the Balloon Fiesta was how nice the balloon crews were. Everybody seemed cheerful, even though it was incredibly early. I think it boils down to a whole bunch of people being exactly where they want to be for an amazing once a year event. Obviously, the balloon owners are hugely passionate about ballooning, but it’s worth noting that the crews are largely comprised of volunteers who sign up because they love it and want to be a part of it.
The crew lays out the balloon envelope and then the balloon is blown up with a big fan.
As I was framing a shot of this green and blue balloon, one of the crew members who was holding the top of the balloon during the inflating process called me over and invited me to get right up close and get a shot through the air vents of the inside. So cool!
As the sun came up, suddenly balloons were inflating all over the huge field. Like Lauren mentioned, we wanted to look everywhere at once, and the beauty of it was overwhelming. And quilty inspiration was everywhere! If I had a nickel for every time Lauren or I said “I think that one is my favorite…”
Once all of the balloons launched into the sky, we were equal parts exhilarated and starving. Luckily, we’d been tipped off that the Fiesta experience was not complete without a breakfast burrito. New Mexicans are quite proud of their green chiles, they put them in everything, even their chocolate truffles. These burritos were filled with eggs, potatoes, bacon, cheese, and green chiles, and they were ridiculously satisfying.
After that amazing burrito, we had a few hours to sightsee around Albuquerque before we had to be back for the evening session, Twinkle Glow. As Lauren mentioned in Part 1, we drove up to Sandia Crest to see the city and surroundings.
We wished we had time for a hike, but that will have to be saved for a future trip. Instead, after lunch we headed back into town and stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food for dinner. As great as the Fiesta burritos were, we figured twice in one day was a bit excessive.
On our way back to the park and ride, we took a 2-mile detour to drive by one of the biggest Breaking Bad landmarks, the White family’s house. The house is now inhabited by an older couple who apparently does not enjoy the home’s claim to fame and constant stream of Breaking Bad tour buses, die-hard fans, and from-a-distance lookie-loos like us. There were multiple "No Trespassing" signs in the front yard, and the couple was standing in the driveway, arms crossed and frowning. We took mental pictures and went on our merry way.
After we got back to the Fiesta grounds, we walked over to the Balloon Museum.
We had 45 minutes to explore before the museum closed, so we hustled through exhibits on the history of hot air and gas balloons, the use of balloons in war, and the history of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. There were also fun interactive exhibits for kids about how the balloons are constructed and operated.
One of the most memorable sights at the museum were two ladies that were elaborately dressed exactly alike from their purple blazers to their patterned black pants, and identical shoes and purses. It was just great and now I wish we’d approached them and asked to take a picture with them.
One tradition of the Fiesta is trading and collecting pins. Breaking Bad pins have been popular in the past few years. Here are a few of the pins displayed by the museum from a private collection.
After we got our fill of the museum, we walked back to the Fiesta grounds and checked out the pin booths and other merchandise booths, and found the Fiesta raffle quilt. I could not capture a picture of the entire quilt due to some unfortunate lighting, but here is a portion of it.
We found a spot to eat dinner, and then hung out, waiting for the sun to go down. The wind came up and people started flying kites.
Unfortunately, by the time it got dark, the wind was strong enough that the balloons had a hard time staying upright. But we still enjoyed it and really appreciated the balloon crews that made the effort to stay inflated for the crowds to enjoy.
The night ended with a long and impressive fireworks show. After it concluded we were exhausted and could not wait to get back to the hotel and fall into bed.
On Sunday morning, we were up at 3:40 a.m. (2:40 PST) with our act together! We got to the park and ride before any significant line had formed, and within 5 or so minutes we were zipping off to the Fiesta grounds. Our bus was nice and quiet Sunday morning, no rowdies to be found. We started the morning right with a breakfast of burritos and coffee, which were so nice and warm in our bellies as we waited in the pitch black cold for the sun to rise.
Sadly, the sun rose without dawn patrol or morning glow, and we eventually learned that the winds were just barely too strong for the balloons to take off. We suddenly realized how fortunate we’d been Saturday morning to catch mass ascension. The officials waited a few hours before canceling Sunday’s mass ascension. Luckily, the entire morning was not a loss, because some of the crews decided to make the best of it with a static display on the ground.
Sunday's balloon display was gorgeous and we had a good time, but it also strengthened our desire to come back for a longer visit next time. Good work, Balloon Fiesta, you knew just how to leave us wanting more!
After the morning session ended, we headed back to the hotel to check out, and then grabbed brunch at Zinc and took a walk around the University of New Mexico campus before heading to the airport. We were sad to leave but also pretty worn out from the extremely early wake-ups. All the more reason to go plan a longer Fiesta trip next time, so that we don’t feel the need to cram in each event on all the days.
Balloon Fiesta, we can’t wait to come back and see you again!