Friday, October 9, 2015

October 4, 2015

On-the-Job Training
Learning to Pack a Balloon
October 4, 2015

Small portion of Sunday morning hot air balloons 
Sunday morning we wanted to see the balloons again, but not from the launch field.  Shortly after moving to Albuquerque four and a half years ago, Bob and Vickey found a place to watch various events such as the Balloon Fiesta.  The place is at a higher elevation than the Fiesta site and has open fields all around it so they have a good spot without the crowds.
That is me in front of the balloons
This year there were about 8 or 10 other cars there and we all found spots for watching without being in each other's line of sight.  It was a little cool and the mosquitoes found me so I had a very light jacket in the car I put on to keep the mosquitoes off.  Ron and Bob had on coats and Vickey stayed in the car.  That is about how we were all weekend - me in short sleeves and them all in jackets and heavy shirts.  
Early during the morning launch
It had still be fairly dark when we arrived, but before long it was getting lighter in spite of clouds, and the balloons were lifting from the field where we had been the previous.  It is an entirely different experience from the new location.  There is a better over all view, but it is harder to see details on the balloons.  
One of the bright balloons headed our way
As we watched, at one point, I turned to Bob and said it sure looked like they were coming our way.  He agreed and said they had never done that before when he watched from that spot.  The more we watched, the more we saw that they were coming our way.  The winds had picked up and were keeping them from returning to the field to land.  
Bringing a black sheep down in an unplanned spot
They began seeking landing spots away from the field.  That is not easy.  They balloons are very tall.  Many are well over 75 feet tall.  On the ground, there are power lines, phone lines, trees, signs, cars, and many other things that need to be avoided.  

Some of the balloons looked apprehensive about the unplanned landing sites.

There is another launch site that is sometimes used for overflow of balloons, not too far from where we were and several were landing there.  Others, came back down on the main field by not going very high and not staying up very long.  
Landing in a residential area
Some soon began landing in a residential neighborhood less that 1/4 mile from where we were.  I wonder how the home owner who might have slept late on Sunday would feel to wake up and see a giant pink pig out the window.  
Bringing a balloon down between the houses and wires
A few additional balloons drifted more our direction.  The open fields surrounding us were all private property where the balloons were not to land.  Some of them did not really have a choice where they could land.  They have about 2 hours of fuel and did not want to end up further into residential areas, so they began coming down in those fields.
 One that landed near us
When they did come down in the fields, young strong men would jump the fence, grab their ropes and pull them to the edge of the field and then others would join them to lift the baskets over the barbed wire fences onto the road along which we were parked.  Not only were the fields private, but they were not a good place to lay the balloon down for folding and their chase team could not get to them to help.
One of my favorites - it was from Brazil
One of my favorite balloons, a fish bowl, came down right where we were.  Another balloon came down and was lifted right next to the fish bowl.  Two others were taken further down the road to a safer open area.  People began to gather to help in any way that they could.
Keeping the balloons safe
The two balloons that were taken on down to a safer open area, quickly deflated their balloons, rolled they up and got them packed away.  That was good, except that their chase teams could not see where they were since they could no longer see the balloons.  Vickey helped the chase team for one of them to find their balloon by riding with the men to show them where the balloon was ready to be loaded.
That is me in the red shirt

The rest of us spent time helping the other two balloons as soon as their chase teams arrived with the tarps to lay the balloons on.  A major problem is that although the road was flat, it was lined on both sides by barbed wire fences.  The balloonists asked everyone to stand along the fences and raise their hands above their head and as the balloon came down, push it toward the middle of the street and not allow it to touch the fences.
Keeping balloon away from barbed wire fences
Once it was on the ground, everyone started rolling the sides toward the middle, pushing any remaining air out the top end of the balloon.  While this was being done, a member of the chase team would start at the bottom end of the balloon, gathering the sides into a long slender neat row, placing ties every so often to keep it neatly in place.  By the time he got to the top end, all the air was out and he would start rolling it back toward the other end and it would fit neatly into a canvas bag about the size of a 30" to 40"cube.

They would then fold the tarp and put it into another canvas bag before lifting those bags and the balloon basket into the back of a pickup truck and driving away.  Some of the larger balloons needed large trailers to take their baskets and balloons away.  It was all fascinating to watch and I was able to help roll the sides of the balloons to be packed away.  It was fun to be involved and each team passed out cards to helpers with a photo of the balloon and various information on the reverse side of the card.  I ended up with three cards.
Man in blue shirt was owner of the fish bowl balloon
Those balloonists had also been very willing to chat while waiting for their chase teams and willing to answer questions.  The fish bowl balloon was from Brazil and the owner and his daughter were the crew on the balloon.  I would guess his daughter to be about 10 years old.  The owner had designed the balloon himself and it was his second balloon.  I think he said it was his 6th trip to the Albuquerque Festival.  

The balloon that came down beside him had four people in their basket: two women and two little girls.  The owner was one of the women and she said this was her second balloon because she wore out the first one.  She was from California, around Monterrey, if I recall correctly.

Having the balloons land right in front of us was fun.  Helping was a great experience and we would all do it again.  


  1. More memories: we would get up around 4am and go get a parking spot...still in PJs....take a nap until daylight, get dressed, set up the camp stove, then cook and eat breakfast while the balloons took off. There are a lot more character balloons than there was, fun!

    1. Glad you are reliving all those good memories, Tiny.

  2. Thanks for sharing your pictures and story of the festival.

    1. Glad you have enjoyed the pictures. There are so many more to share.

  3. They are all unique! I love the Orca! I'm so glad y'all had a great time.

    1. Thanks, Debra! It was a great time. So glad we were able to go and enjoy the balloons as well as our time with Bob and Vickey.

  4. I'm glad you got to go!👍🏽

    1. Thank you, Linda! It was a great trip. So much pressed into a few days.