Walter and Sara on the road to who knows where
Thursday October 10th, I got up a little after 6 am and made my way down to the Launch Field at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Walter, wise man that he is, stayed in bed and went back to sleep.

The first sign that there might be a problem was that I didn’t see any Dawn Patrol balloons up. By this point the other two mornings, there were 10 balloons up in the air drifting northward.

Oh well, maybe things were delayed because of the light breeze I could feel along the field. I stopped to take a photo in the dark of this balloon gondola in the back of a pick up truck.

Balloon Fiesta

You see trucks like this all over the field, in addition to open and enclosed trailers. The first step in launching is getting the gondola out of the truck and onto the ground and then getting it positioned in your allotted space so you can spread out your envelope to get it filled. Clearly you need a crew of at least 3 if not 4 people to do the job.

The Star Wars Crew marched past where I was standing. These folks are the ground crews for the Yoda and Darth Vader balloons. They do all the work to get ready while dressed in full costume. What fun.

Star Wars Crew

At last at nearly 7 am, two Wells Fargo balloons (they were the sponsor for the Special Shapes Rodeo) came up to vertical and began to waft back and forth—clearly too much wind.

Balloon Fiesta

Along about this point, I decided that the balloons were not going to go up that day. And the folks next to me went and asked one of the pilots and that was confirmed. The wind was over 25 mph just 200 feet up and that means no go—they don’t fly in anything above 12 mph. But do not dismay. They were going to inflate the balloons and let us look at them on the ground.

First up was a leopard that was facing the other way.  

Leopard balloon

And then a wolf.

Wolf balloon

Behind us was a balloon with flip flops on it’s side.

Flip flop balloon

Off in the distance one of the penguins was just starting to fill.

Penguin balloon

I tried walking south along the main walkway to see if I could get photos of the fronts of the leopard and the wolf and I got engulfed in the crowd to the point where no one was moving. I did get a photo of the turtle coming up to vertical.

Turtle balloon

And a Smurf rising up out of the crowd.

Smurf balloon

The penguin came up to vertical.

Penguin balloon

And I decided I’d follow a vendor with a cart full of light sabers breaking a path going back north.

Meanwhile a koala began to inflate.     

Koala balloon

And the Bimbo Bread Bear come up to vertical.

Bimbo bread balloon

You can see how dense the crowd was.

The owl appeared above the crowd.  

Owl balloon

And as I returned back to where I’d started Darth Vader came up to vertical. He was swaying so far back and forth that his nose almost touched the ground in front of me. The crew had to keep telling people not to try to touch him.

Darth Vader balloon

The balloon with the flip flops had come up too.

Flip flop balloon

This Keystone Cops type convict/bad guy came up too. And you can see that things were starting to get crowded with balloons too.

Balloon Fiesta

This dragon was swaying back and forth in the wind.

Dragon balloon

As was this cat who reminded me of Tom and Jerry days.

Cat balloon

I decided to get out of the crowd and go up to a walkway on the north end of the field that gives you at least a semi-elevated view of the field (it’s about a story up). It certainly gives you a sense of scale. Those balloons are BIG.

Balloon Fiesta

I lined up with the center aisle and took a photo down the center of the field.

Balloon Fiesta

The balloons were swaying back and forth and running into each other which made it all seem that much more chaotic.

Balloon Fiesta

I walked over to the far side and got a shot from a different angle. You can see more shapes and then a bunch of regular round balloons too.        

 Balloon Fiesta

As I made my way back across a new robot appeared along with an elephant who was still being inflated.

Balloon Fiesta

And don’t forget this pig-tailed little girl who wasn’t so very little.

Balloon Fiesta

I made my way back to the trailer where you could still see balloons coming up. I got Walter out of bed and made him come out to see what he could see just from the edge of the RV park (just across the ditch from the walkway where I’d taken my last photos). The elephant was up and he had a Pooh Bear on his shoulder.

Balloon Fiesta from North Lot

And you could see a witch who had come up along with an enormous saguaro cactus. You can see folks on the walkway behind the red plastic barrier. This is where I’d taken my photos from above the field.

Saguaro balloon

Here’s a close up of the witch.

Witch balloon

Of course, if you really had your heart set on it, you could have come back on Friday morning when they did the Special Shapes Rodeo all over again and this time the weather gods smiled and the balloons all came up. I’m sure lots of folks did.

I’m really glad that I had taken a lot of photos of the special shapes balloons when they went the previous two mornings though. Here they are starting with the first morning.

This guy was an ad for some kind of automotive service, I think.     

Balloon Fiesta

I really liked this Chinese style lantern. I only saw it the first morning. If you look carefully it’s seems to be a carousel with kids riding animals.

Carousel balloon

After many of the regular balloons had taken off on Tuesday morning this huge replica of the Sao Paulo Brazil Christ the Redeemer statue came up along with a very large Black Sheep.

Balloon Fiesta

Smokey the Bear didn’t fly that morning but we saw him take off the next morning.

Smokey the Bear balloon

This USA astronaut took a long time to inflate. He has a photo of an earthrise on his faceplate. It takes a crew of over 15 to put him up.

Astronaut balloon

On Wednesday morning we saw the Smurf fly.

Smurf balloon

And this fish which looks much smaller than he actually was.

Fish balloon

This crazy dawg flew both mornings.

Dawg balloon

The well-armed armadillo was one of my favorites.

Armadillo balloon

Here’s Yoda. He was alone on Wednesday since they only put Darth Vader up on Thursday morning.

Yoda balloon

Mr. Frog flew both mornings and always seemed to be popping up somewhere.

Frog balloon

The happy Golden Retriever may not have been a special shape but he was so cute how could you pass him up?

Golden retriever balloon

The big mouthed music guy was there all three days and flew at least one day. See the blue devil up in the sky above him?

Balloon Fiesta

The big blue chicken flew both mornings and landed right in the same place she took off from on Wednesday morning.

Blue chicken balloon

The Joker was a late riser on Wednesday.

Joker balloon

And here’s proof that old Smokey got off the ground on Wednesday.

Smokey the bear balloon

The Black Sheep is such a cutie that I took a photo of him as they were starting to get ready to deflate him.

Black sheep balloon

And there you have it—a sampling of the over 90 Special Shapes Balloons at this year’s Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

This adventure was lots of fun but it was also really exhausting. Getting up really early and being out in the cold for hours took it’s toll. So did the sensory overload of the crowds and the hundreds of balloons. Everyone was very orderly and happy. I’ve never seen so many people all smiling at the same time. Everyone was having a great time. And we both did too.

I hope you enjoyed getting to see just a small slice of our three days of overload. It was great to be able to share some of the nearly 1000 photos I took over the three days.

Once we’d had breakfast, we packed up and made our way out of Albuquerque, through Santa Fe and up into Georgia O’Keefe Country. We couldn’t get a camping spot in Abiquiu since the campground was full so we drove north to Heron Lake State Park near the Colorado border and spent 3 nights there.