Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, 2013.

October 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Well, I can scratch this item off my “bucket list”. Although I have traveled through Albuquerque countless times during my military and  truck driving careers, this was the first time I have ever had the opportunity to attend this event.

Despite the early start times for some of the events, I would like to say that of all the big events I have attended in my life, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, 2013 was far and away the best organized and “user-friendly”. Traffic management into and out of the event is superb. There is plenty of parking available on site (for a nominal fee naturally). The staff is friendly, courteous, and helpful. There were plenty of accommodations available, for any budget, within a few miles of the Balloon Fiesta location; and they didn’t “Jack-up” their prices because of the event. This is a family oriented event. You are allowed to bring your own food and drinks to the event (but they do reserve the right to search your bags upon entry; for booze and weapons, I assume). Alcohol is prohibited except for beer sold at the concession stands (this is the one area where the concessionaires have a monopoly, and they monitor closely and will not serve you the beer if you appear inebriated). There are a number of concessionaires on site to accommodate almost any type of food you want. Heck, I found one food stand that had hot dogs for a buck each; quite a reasonable price for such an event. I began my day there before dawn. I arrived at about 4:00 am. The first event, Dawn Patrol, wasn’t scheduled until 5:30, so I used the spare time familiarizing myself with the layout of the facility. I located the bathrooms, scouted the location of the food (and other) concessionaires, and figured out where the events in which I was interested would take place.
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1) Concession stand.
2) USAF recruitment pavilion. (I didn’t enlist).
3) The main walkway (where all of the concessionaires and bathrooms were).

Dawn Patrol:

Dawn Patrol is the first event. There were about eleven different balloons that participated in this event on the day I attended. Basically, the event doesn’t really “patrol” anything. It is just a show that allows you to see the balloons take off while it is still dark.
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These pictures should be self-explanatory. Sorry about the dirty lens. I really did clean it before I entered the facility (but it was dark after all).

Mass Ascension:

The Mass Ascension is somewhat of a misnomer. All of the balloons do not take off simultaneously. Rather, they launch in rapid succession, sometimes in unison with other balloons; basically whenever they are ready to the start of the event. The event started promptly at 8:00 am, and wasn’t finished until about 9:45. With the limited number of spots, as one balloon launched, another crew would take their spot and launch as soon as they were ready. Nonetheless, it was an impressive spectacle. I found an ideal location from which to view the event; on the grass in front of the V.I.P. pavilions. One point I should mention is that you are free to roam around the perimeter of the launch site as long as you don’t interfere with any of the launch crews.
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1) Proof that I was there.
2) And, they’re off.
3) The V.I.P. pavilions. Not only did I have an excellent view of the launch, but the “intel” pavilion played the best music all throughout the launch.

The balloons flew directly over my head after they launched, so I had the opportunity to get some great close-up shots.
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This is just a break so you don’t go cross-eyed looking at all the pictures.
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The balloons came in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.
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Another break.
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The animal kingdom was well represented. There were zebras, elephants, bears, pigs, and even a panda.
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The avian community had its share of representation too, although one seemed “angry”.
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There were even a few celebrities in attendance. Darth Vader was there. There was also a princess. And last, but not least, Elvis himself made an appearance.
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To view slide shows of Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension, and After Glow, click this link and this link. I tried to publish them as one video, but I had to split them into two parts so that YouTube would publish them.

Classic Car Show:

The next event that I attended was the Classic Car Show. They had about 63 cars there. Some were quite nice; some, not so much.
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1) Unknown (53 or 54 Chevy panel truck?)
2) Customized trike.
3) 1932 Ford.
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1) 1934 Ford
2) 1968 or ’69 Pontiac Le Mans.
3) 1959 Chrysler Imperial.
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1) 1956 or’57 Packard.
2) 1964 or ’63 Studebaker.
3) 1963 Studebaker Avanti.
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1) 1951 Kaiser.
2) 1930 Ford.
3) Interior of above.
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1) Early 1960’s Rambler.
2) Mid 1930’s Chevy.
3) Mid 1930’s ford?
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1) 1968 Caddy?
2) 2006 Lotus.
3) 1949 Chevy 3-window pickup.
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1) 193? Bucket “T”.
2) 1957 Chevy
3) 1968 Oldsmobile 442
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1) 1968 or ’69 Dodge Coronet.
2) 1969 or 1970 Dodge Challenger.
3) 1938 Ford truck. (Maybe a 1932)
To view a slide show of all of the cars in the show, click this link.

After the car show, I took a break. I checked into my motel and then had lunch. When I returned to Balloon Fiesta Park about 4:30 pm, the first thing on the agenda was the chainsaw carving contest. I didn’t get to see a lot of the actual carving. By the time I arrived, they were mostly doing finish work. I did get to see lots of samples of their finished work, however.
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Carvers and chainsaw carvings.

After Glow:

The final event I attended was After Glow. After Glow is the event for those lazy people who don’t want to get up before dawn to see the Dawn Patrol, but who still want to enjoy the spectacle of the balloons illuminated in darkness. It began at dusk, about 8:30 pm, and went on for about an hour. I was disappointed that they didn’t have an announcer to announce when they were going to do a mass burn so you could get your camera ready. It didn’t seem to be organized, but evidently, the balloon pilots were in communication with someone because there were quite a few mass burns. It was just hit or miss though because the spectators had no way of knowing when one was going to happen. Maybe it was just me being grumpy. I was pretty well exhausted by this time.
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To sum up, it was a long, exhausting day, and I’m glad I did it; even though I paid for it for the next few days. Every muscle in my body ached, especially my legs. The venue is enormous, and I must have covered every square inch of it at least twice throughout the course of the day.


1) Don’t make the same mistake that I made and try to do it all in one day. Allow yourself two days.
2) Before you leave home, go to this website. Plan which events you want to see and make a schedule. You can buy and print out your tickets through this website as well.
3. Dress in layers. It will be chilly for some of the morning events, but it will warm up nicely for the afternoon events. Be cautioned that you may need your jacket of sweater again for the evening events.
4. Bring your own snacks, and drink plenty of water.


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