Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta - 2006 

Updated: 11/30/08

HitchHikers of America International Tour Events

Some of our experiences at the Balloon Fiesta . . .


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The last report we heard was that 750 balloons
were at the 2006 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Because we paid one price for the tour, we do not know individual fees.
The Balloon Fiesta has a ten day event schedule and fees will be on the Internet.   



HitchHikers of America International Tour Events


HitchHikers arrived at Balloon Fiesta Park throughout the day on Thursday. This was a tour of 22 RVs that didn't go any place. We stayed in the park the entire week. The schedule of group activities was designed to give us lots of free time. Therefore, we could take advantage of the many scheduled Balloon Fiesta events. It turned out to be a good plan.



We had tickets to enter the park every day. Depending on the day and weather, people went across the street to the park others stayed near their RVs and enjoyed the balloons from the comfort of their campsite. Speaking of comfort, the best advice we received was to take a camp stool or chair with us into the park - there is nowhere to sit inside the park. 


 The first group event was our Welcome Dinner Thursday evening at the Range Cafe. The food was good and we could talk with HitchHikers we had not met previously. 


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Friday morning was the Albuquerque Aloft when a couple hundred hot air balloons launched from area schools and the park. The balloons launching from the park drifted directly over our RVs. 


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All did not go well. This balloon came down near our sites.

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v a bf6 city medal 142.JPG (39824 bytes)In the evening, Albuquerque concluded a year long Tri-Centennial Celebration by illuminating the Sandia Mountain Crest and a fireworks display. 


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Balloons launched during Saturday morning's mass ascension from the park drifted away from our location. While not as exciting as flying over us, we could still enjoy seeing them. The haze in the air and the distance from our site reduced the vivid colors.


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All balloonists cannot use the Balloon Fiesta Park.
These balloons were launching a long distance from the park.
The photograph is made using a long zoom.

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Sunday was too rainy and windy for balloons to fly for Balloon Fiesta events. A beautiful sunset Sunday evening preceded the After Glow Fireworks.


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Monday was a cloudy, rainy day. Our Monday evening ice cream social turned out to be an unusual event. Because of weather (rain and wind) all Balloon Fiesta events had been cancelled. Dolores and Don delivered the ice cream to each RV for us to eat at our leisure. We had decided this was best as it was too unpleasant to eat outside.



v a bf6 red3011.JPG (34064 bytes)Tuesday was a full day. The bus was picking us up at 8:30am.  It started more quickly than planned when Fred looked out our window and saw a balloon being inflated behind the row of RVs across from us. He dressed, ate breakfast and headed out with the camera. We thought we would miss balloon activity today but here it was almost in our front yard.

After filling their balloons, they had to wait for the clearance to take-off.

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v a bf6 bus window 206.JPG (36344 bytes)There were so many balloons in the air when the bus arrived, it was difficult to leave the area. But, we knew we had a fun day ahead of us. 

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v a bf6 acoma permit 016.JPG (18532 bytes)Our first event of the day was at the Sky City Cultural Center Pueblo of Acoma Tour. Acoma means the place that always existed. There were strict rules issued by the tribe for the making of photographs on the reservation. If you wanted to make any photographs of any kind, you were required to purchase a $10 permit. 

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Because we were on a bus tour, we did not have time to visit the attached Haaku Museum.


The Acoma Pueblo is one of the oldest settlements in the country - evidence dates it from A.D. 1150. Today seventeen residents live on the mesa top all year around. Two hundred people inhabit the mesa top during the nicer weather.

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The view from Acoma is fantastic - beauty wherever you look.


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Mount Taylor . . . (with snow)

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v a bf6 acoma enchanted 009.JPG (27519 bytes)Our bus driver told us this was our only look at the Enchanted Mesa because we would be leaving Acoma by a different route. However, because of our large zoom, we saw the other side from Acoma. Legend has it that this was an ancestral settlement, but access to it was wiped out by a violent storm, leaving several Acoma women and children to starve on the mesa top.

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v a bf6 acoma church 217.JPG (32162 bytes)The compound including the church and cemetery are sacred areas. No photographs are permitted to be make inside the cemetery walls. You can shoot from outside the walls.

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The ladders to the upper residents can be pulled up to provide security.

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This is one of four watering holes in Acoma used for animals.

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This thin stone window allowed light into the ceremonial room.

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Cook oven . . .

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v a bf6 acoma cars 109.JPG (27246 bytes)Considering that Acoma does not have running water or electricity, some of us were surprised to see vehicles on the mesa. There was also a collection of porta-potties scattered throughout the community.

Our guide was very informative and mentioned that they use Home Depot for many supplies in this modern age.   v a bf6 acoma home depot 036.JPG (43132 bytes)







v a bf6 acoma vendors 099.JPG (38007 bytes)As we were guided through the area, residents came out of the homes to offer various foods and crafts for sale.






Lunch was a buffet at the  Sky City Casino. We did not have much time, however, a few of us found time to gamble a little. Maybe they skipped lunch.


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v a bf6 city 133.JPG (33629 bytes)The bus trip gave us a good look at the City of Albuquerque in the day time.


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After lunch we were given a little over an hour to visit Old Town Albuquerque. The church, local town square and shopping plaza were very interesting. 


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The other group activity on the schedule was our Farewell Dinner Wednesday evening. It was at the County Line Restaurant. Our group had an all barbeque selection. The food kept coming. The food was served family style - a lot of food was leftover.


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It slipped out that it was Don's birthday.
We had to have a party.

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As we left the restaurant, we got a look at the city at night.


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We had to be off our campsites by noon on Thursday. Because of the high interest in the final weekend of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, we were not all moved off our sites when the new occupants arrived before noon. We don't blame them  - they had an exciting weekend ahead of them.


All the HitchHikers had a great time. We thank Dolores and Don for their coordination, always being there when needed and showing their concern for those of us who were a little under the weather for a couple days.


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Some of our experiences at the Balloon Fiesta . . .


This was our first experience at a major balloon fiesta. The following photographs will show the various Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta events we attended. Bare with us as we describe what we saw - as novices.

Mary Lou's balloon ride

In flight photographs . . .

Dawn Patrol

Special Shape Rodeo

Flying Competition

Gas Balloon Race

t ab ride launch site 001.JPG (17581 bytes)The best way to get started - let's start with Mary Lou's balloon ride. That is where we saw the total process of hot air ballooning. Mary Lou took the ride with two friends we travel with and five other people. We got up at 4:00am to get together and meet the balloon company at a local gas station. They led us to the launch site. 

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The sun was just rising. It was cold.          t ab trio 2 006.JPG (26563 bytes)



t ab ride riders 019.JPG (28103 bytes)The riders were briefed on what to expect. Including that balloons land with the basket on its side 50% of the time. Before the balloon is upright, the balloon and basket lay on the ground.

Fred didn't think the 50% on the side sounded good.     t ab basket trio 030.JPG (38969 bytes)



It makes sense for balloon control ... but ... there are a lot of holes in hot air balloons.


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Top hole . . .                                    Side vents . . .



t ab attempt 1 111.JPG (22009 bytes)The first attempt to launch failed due to high winds. The balloon was about half inflated and started swinging around. They stopped filling it and let it deflate.

 t ab attempt 2 165.JPG (27613 bytes)After a staff meeting, they decided to try again.  While the balloon looked half inflated again, they started loading the basket with eight people. Because many of the riders were over 70 (one was 88 years old), loading did not go fast enough and the wind knocked down the balloon. The second attempt failed also.





The F.A.A. showed up to verify the documentation
and inspect the balloon and riggings.

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t a f balloon filling 005.JPG (34688 bytes)After another period of time, the wind died down. The inflation started again. The gasoline powered fan pushed air in the balloon and blasts of LP gas heated the air.


t ab attempt 3 good 211.JPG (22739 bytes)Finally, they had a fully inflated balloon and the riders started loading.

        Packed like sardines, they were ready to go.

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And, they are off . . .

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Let the chase begin  . . .      t ab the chase 289.JPG (30288 bytes)   Marilyn and Fred followed the chase team in our truck. As they approached Albuquerque, they could see the balloons in the distance that launched in the mass ascension at Balloon Fiesta Park.

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t ab landed 337.JPG (17548 bytes)The balloon landed in a vacant lot behind a restaurant. As Albuquerque is experiencing significant building, the balloonist are finding it more and more difficult to find launching and landing sites.

The staff with the help of Jerry and Rex stuffed the balloon into a bag, disassembled the basket and put it all in the cargo trailer.

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"It was wonderful."


A tradition of ballooning is the sharing Champagne upon landing. We read in Trailer Life magazine (Oct '06) that this tradition started when balloonist in France gave Champagne to the peasants working in the fields where they landed to convince them they were friendly. Prior to this, the peasants would rush the balloon with pitchforks thinking it was a monster.

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Mary Lou's Certificate



In flight photographs . . .

t a f balloon fred 008.JPG (42277 bytes)We carry our old digital camera as a back-up in case of problems with our current camera. Mary Lou took the back-up camera with her. The following are views she enjoyed in flight. The first is of Fred with his feet firmly planted on the ground.



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Shadows of Mary Lou's balloon . . .

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The Albuquerque landscape . . .

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Company in the sky . . .

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We got up at 4:30am to watch the Dawn Patrol. They were scheduled to start at 5:45am. It seems that for various reasons, mostly weather, the 'scheduled times' are not written in stone. They launched at 6:30am. We found the local television broadcast news to be the best source for current times. Unfortunately, sometimes you have already left for the park before the news.


It was cold while we waited for the launch. But, it was worth the wait. The Intel balloon was the closest to us.


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         Under the lights . . .                       A launching . . .                                  In flight . . .



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A glow  - on the ground . . .



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Launched . . .



s aa dawn 005.JPG (14487 bytes)This hot air balloon has the navigation lights required for flight in the dark. If not burning the gas, they are hard to see. 






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We stayed at the field after the Dawn Patrol for the Special Shape Rodeo. It would be impossible to stop posting photographs of special shape balloons if we did not have the Albuquerque balloons - 2006 page.


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Kids of any age find them fantastic.



p a bf8 close launch 052.JPG (31266 bytes)Looking across the field, there was a real traffic jam of regular balloons getting ready to launch.

Sitting here posting our Web site, we are wondering if they were going up to help the special shape balloon identify air currents.





p a bf8 covered w balloons 129.JPG (30117 bytes)Walking among the special shape balloons was a neat sensation. They are huge. The buzz of activity was fun to watch. And, you had to hear the comments made by the admiring spectators to sense their excitement.

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r a bf8 turtle 384.JPG (33345 bytes)This guy was coming in for a landing. Maybe his shell was too heavy to stay aloft.






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r a bf8 carousal 180.JPG (19921 bytes)      r a bf8 duck 215.JPG (11713 bytes)      r a bf8 fruit lady 278.JPG (10472 bytes)


r a bf8 hd wall 237.JPG (13783 bytes)      r a bf8 lighthouse 267.JPG (11832 bytes)      r a bf8 peppers 241.JPG (15883 bytes)


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Flying Competition followed the launch of the Special Shape Balloons. It was announced that over 200 balloons were on their way to the field. Mounted police cleared the field so the competition could begin. 


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This is a demonstration of how the Flying Competition is supposed to be done. Most did not get this close to the target.


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The Gas Balloon Race was finally launched Tuesday night. It had been delayed for several days due to weather. We heard that this was their last weather window for launch. The race winner was expected to land in Georgia. The winner travels the most miles, regardless of direction.


v a bf6 gb tanker 018.JPG (38471 bytes)Gas was delivered by six tank trucks for the thirteen gas balloons in the race. The noise of the gas had to be loud - we saw some crew members wearing ear protection. It was loud enough where we were.






After the gas balloons is stretched out and ready for filling, commands are given to the 'valve person' as the rest of the crew is arranging the fabric for filling. The gas balloon is held securely as long as possible. It is released to 'pop' into the air. The filling continues. 


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v a bf6 gb up snag 094.JPG (26845 bytes)If the crew did not properly position fabric, a tangle can occur which must be eliminated before continuing filling.






v a bf6 gb 229.JPG (28707 bytes)There are bright lamps mounted on poles at the corners of the launch site. As darkness ascends, it is a spectacular sight.


        Fred has a little reflection in the roof of the PT Cruiser he was using as a tripod. 

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We had a great time at the 2006 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. In spite of periods of rain and wind, most of the events took place. Some at a rescheduled day and time. We feel we experienced the essence of the Balloon Fiesta and left the park not feeling short changed.

If you get an opportunity, go at some time in the future.



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