What a whirlwind! The 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta held annually in New Mexico has come and gone, and my, was it a treat. Our team spent two days on the green engaging with folks from all over the world in effort to understand the inner workings of hot air balloons and New Mexico’s culture and cuisines. We stayed in an RV on the hill at the Presidential Compound, woke before the sun every morning, marveled at the morning launches that began right at dawn, and ate the most delicious southwestern food we’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Today we’re bringing you our full recap of the balloon festival, packed with photos, tips and tricks on What We Learned During our First Fiesta and so much more. Check out the recap below!
DAY ONE: BALLOONS SOMETIMES FLY, AND SOMETIMES DON’T
We arrived at the International Balloon Festival wide-eyed and grinning, but as newbies to the Fiesta, we were not ready for what the day was going to bring. Admittedly, we found ourselves a little disappointed when we woke at 4:45 AM only to wait until 7:50 to see the first hot air balloon take to the sky. Something to know about hot air balloons – they are incredibly sensitive. Any wind over 10 miles an hour, as well as any rain or non-agreeably calm forecast can keep a hot air balloon on the ground. Each pilot makes the call himself, to fly or wait until better conditions arrive, and our La Mesa RV Pilot Barney, made the call to stay grounded our first day.
Though our pilot didn’t fly on day one, we did see a few balloons take to the sky. We roamed around on the green, which was one of the best experiences of the entire festival because you can go anywhere, get as close as you want to any balloon and chat up other folks about their experiences. We then decided to eat anything and everything in sight. (you’ll read all about the food we loved this Friday) and browsed the local vendors for trinkets and memorabilia to take home. The whole day was pure magic. Nothing makes you feel like a kid again like hot air balloons do.
RVING AT THE FIESTA = THE BEST VIEWS IN THE HOUSE
As La Mesa RV is a proud sponsor of the Fiesta, we don’t love anything more than the RVing comradery a festival creates. We drank beer around a fire with new friends from Montana, chatted with the couple who has been attending the fiesta for the past 13 years (who always bring their RV and pack in their friends and family), and we made coffee in our motorhome on those early, 30 degree mornings. We saw children riding their bikes, groups of friends driving around on golf carts and families playing board games. Everyone offered up their food, beverages and conversation. No one was a stranger at the fiesta, the RV community that has been coming and attending the event for years made sure of that.
DAY TWO: DAWN AND THE BALLOONS
We set our alarms for 4:45 again and this time, for a successful launch! We walked down to the field (another perk of RVing at the festival, no traffic) and watched the Dawn Patrol and Laser Light Show, the two events that kick off the early morning launches. The morning session started even before the sun rose, with one American flag balloon taking to the sky and a few additional balloons followed. The sun rose behind the Sandia Mountains, creating a stunning pink and gray backdrop for the balloons to fly into.
Around 8 AM the competition balloon flights began. What a sight. Hundreds of balloons taking flight is no small thing to witness! And best of all, our LMRV balloon made it into the air, with one of our very own in the basket. When one of the riders dropped out right before the launch and an empty space remained, Deanna was pulled (she agreed) onto the ride! In her own words, “Our LMRV ballooning pilot, Barney Watson pulled a fast one on me and invited me to hop into his Cool Beans balloon as he prepared to ascend. How could I ever decline the offer? In a moment of panic, curiosity, and trust I hopped into the basket, rattling like a maraca. Within a few short minutes, I realized it was easily one of the best spontaneous decisions I’ve ever made. Adrenaline melted into awe. Any fear I had was quieted by the humbling sky view from the balloon. It’s such an epic way of taking a leap towards conquering your fears. If you get a chance to get on a balloon, don’t be afraid. You’re with a trained professional. Just do it.”
Deanna landed safely on the green and was greeted by the Cool Beans crew with a ceremony that included Champagne, a history of the first hot air balloon and a final dousing of bubbly! It was the perfect ending to a fantastic event. One thing is for certain, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is called a Fiesta for a reason.
Are you itching for more on the International Balloon Fiesta? We’ve got you covered! Check out our interview, RVer’s from the Fiesta Tell All about the event they can’t get enough of! Were you at this years festivities? We want to hear from you! Leave us a comment telling us about your favorite event and why for a chance to be featured on our Instagram!