Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day 1
October 5, 2002
Page 1

Well, I finally made it! After years of hearing my parents talk about the balloon fiesta I was able to make it out here this year. And let me tell you, hearing about it is nothing like actually being there! And just viewing the balloons from the spectator position is a world away from actually being part of the crew responsible for helping to get those beautiful balloons airborne! I learned sooooo much in the 8+ days I was priveleged to be able to participate in this amazing fiesta. Come with me on a journey through the heart of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Fair warning, I was a bit over the top in regards to picture taking, so if you don't have a couple of hours on hand to view this album, you might want to be sure and bookmark it now so you can come back and finish up where you left off. And with that said, Away We Go!!

The day always starts with a dawn patrol and the pilot briefing where a small weather balloon (called a pi boll) is sent up to tell what the winds are like at different altitudes to know whether there will be good or not so good flying that day. After that the pilots find out which wave of balloons they'll be in that day. Once they make it back to the launch site it's time to get all the equipment ready for take-off. One of the most important parts of that equipment is the burners. They have to be in good working order and they're always tested prior to anything else. The picture to the right is one of our launch site partners (Air Bear) testing the burner on their balloon.

The launch field was laid out in a grid with numbers and letters corresponding to where particular balloons call "home" for the duration of the fiesta. We shared the our launch site (F6) with 3 other balloons, Air Bear, Sun E Home and Gloria Caeli (the tie-dye balloon). Some sites had only one or two balloons while others had up to 6 sharing the space. Keep in mind that the complete launch field was the size of about 3 football fields, I'm not sure the exact dimensions of each square but there were a whole bunch of them! The letters ran from A-W except for I & O, and they were numbered East to West 1-11. You do the math. You can view a map of the field here, for as long as the fiesta webmeister leaves it online. I printed out my own copy to help with identifying balloons from the pictures I took. You can't imagine what its like to get home with 30+ rolls of film and try to figure out which balloon is which without a program guide and access to the Fiesta website, even then it was extremely difficult to ferret out balloon names. Some I never did find out but most I did discover eventually.

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Looking towards the east as the sun comes up. That's the Oklahoma Centennial balloon on the left and "Lemonade"
on the right.
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The Air Bear pilot testing the blowers.

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Laying out the balloon, referred to as the envelope, in preparation for "cold-filling" which means they use a large fan to fill the balloon with air.

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Here's our pilot, Rick Jones, getting ready to tip the gondola (basket) over in preparation for hooking everything together.
10-5-02_1-07 Looking towards the west, down row "F", you can see that everyone's getting ready for Day 1! The bright red and yellow balloon is named "Tickler Too", you'll be seeing a lot of her later!
Getting the envelope ready to fill with cold air. The dark brown balloon in the foreground of the picture is Air Bear, someone is under the fabric helping to smooth it out. The balloons in the background are already mostly filled and will be ready to take off as soon as the launch director gives them the go ahead.

From left to right: Taiho Niji-Go, Ad-Venture, Cool Beans!, Black Magic, Bubble One. The balloon just behind the trailer with the light blue and rainbow colors is called Rainbow Thru Heaven.
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10-5-02_1-15 Filling the envelope with cold air...
the man in the foreground is in front of the large fan used to blow air into the balloon prior to heating the air with the burners.

Going Hot! Once the envelope is as full as it can get lying down, the pilot is given the okay from the launch director to "go hot" meaning that he can turn his burners on and heat all that air causing the balloon to rise, hence the term "hot air balloon" (as if you hadn't figured that out by yourself right?) The balloon in the picture below is named "Sun E Home" the one to the right is "Air Bear". And btw, the guy in the brown vest looking up into the balloon is my Step-dad Mike. The couple in the foreground leaning against the gondola are Michael and Lindsey, two of our crew members.

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10-5-02_1-13 We were in the second wave of balloons today so I had plenty of time to take pictures of the neighboring balloons and of all the people milling around. I thought this shot was most appropriate as it shows a balloon with the New Mexico symbol "zia". I was never able to figure out what the balloon's actual name was though. The blue balloon was unnamed but it had two bison heads sticking out of it so I call it "PCC Bison" and the Striped balloon is Taiho Niji-Go again. Don't you just love the trolley car? They actually used that as the chase vehicle throughout the entire fiesta! (More on chase vehicles later...)
There's my step-dad again, and he has the big lens out this time. It was most entertaining to see people walk past his tripod and do a double take when they saw the size of that lens! 10-5-02_1-22
10-5-02_3-00 The Ness family, Kirsten, Melanie and Steve. These nice folks came all the way from Maine to help Rick crew his balloon! Long drive!!
I love this shot! For a pop-up window diagramming all the names of these balloons click on the picture. 10-5-02_3-03a
10-5-02_2-15 I never did discover the name of the fancy blue balloon, but I'm sure it was designed to honor the original balloons from the Victorian Age. Pretty isn't it?
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Next Page - More Balloons! --------->   

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8