By Saimi Bergmann
For about 15 years, I’ve longed to visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Hundreds and hundreds of hot air balloon pilots from all over the world make the pilgrimage to this 42-year old festival.
Did it live up to my expectations? You bet. And I plan to go back next year and join a crew. Turns out, you can just walk down to the fields where the balloons are inflated and volunteer. If the pilot says yes, you can help with set up and tear down, join a chase crew, and at the end of the flight some pilots give volunteers a quick ride up to the end of a tether. Several of our neighbors in the RV park had volunteered and said it was well worth getting up before dawn.
The most surprising aspect was how up close and personal it all was. Spectators can walk right on the field, weave between balloons, jump over tether lines and chat with crews. A couple times a balloon inflated so quickly it brushed against me before I jumped out of the way.
Unless you are a professional photographer (and we saw plenty of those- this is reputedly the most photographed event int he U.S.) we dont think its possible to truly capture the experience. Lord knows we tried. It’s impossible not to take hundreds of photos. Everywhere you look, it’s PHOTO OP! PHOTO OP!