A couple of weeks ago, as I drove through a torrential downpour in San Ysidro, on the first leg of my trip to Salt Lake City to move my son to his new job there, my cell phone lit up with an unknown area code. I probably should have foregone answering, given the weather and road conditions, but far be it from me to miss the opportunity to chat it up.
The call was from my cousin Shirley, far away in Arkansas. She told me she was thinking about coming to New Mexico this fall for a visit, and wanted to know whether I thought it was worth it for them to wedge a day at the balloon fiesta into their itineraries. So, Shirley, this post is for you. And for anyone out there who’s considering spending a day with the balloons.
I went to my first balloon fiesta in 1979 or 1980, a year when I was living in a trailer park in northern Albuquerque, working as a data entry clerk for Presbyterian. A year when I had (quite foolishly) decided that working for a living would be so much more fun than finishing my sophomore year at New Mexico State. One night at the Caravan (yeah, I had a fake id. . .) on East Central, I met a funny, smart, tall, blonde guy who knew how to waltz like a dream. It was the waltzing that got me – I agreed to get up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning to go to watch about 23 balloons take flight in a field somewhere off Candelaria and the I-25 frontage road (at least that’s where I think we were – somewhere in that industrial park neighborhood).
I was immediately in love – with the balloons, not the blonde, although I kept him around as a great friend for decades. (Where are you now, David Telford?)
And I have remained in love with the balloons. All those years I lived in Albuquerque, I’d have an internal argument with myself every year – was it really “worth it” to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday, was it really worth it to fight all that traffic (until I got smart enough to take the park & ride seriously), was it really worth dragging myself through the crowds on the field?
And every year I talked myself into going – or my perennial set of out-of-town company who wanted me to go along anyway.
I’ve never regretted my decisions to go out to the balloon field for balloon fiesta. You can probably search the web and get a thousand comments elsewhere – my advice is that you simply get your calendar out and schedule a morning AND an evening (the glow is amazing, every year), at a minimum, and make a plan to go. It’s always breathtaking, exhilarating, exciting, beautiful – all those terms that sound pretty cliche (mostly because they’re true).
As they say in Nikeland, Just Do It. There are so many New Mexicans who haven’t been to balloon fiesta – honestly folks, people come from Dubai and Japan and New Zealand to see this! Just Do It.
This year the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta runs from October 2 – 10, 2010. Check out the website (www.balloonfiesta.com). It’s the biggest and the best, with over 550 balloon in 2009.
Last year we found a room through www.hotels.com – I think we spent about $80 per night (don’t expect room service for that amount, but you just need a bed until about 5:30 in the morning. . .), and then we had a breakfast burrito on the field, and then a turkey leg, and then fresh lemonade, and . . .well, you know I’m all about the food as well as the event.
I’m going to say it again. Go. Just Do It. Then send me some pictures and I’ll post them here. Have fun, Cousin Shirley! We can’t wait to see you.