If it’s not on your Bucket List yet, put it there now. Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta is situated at the border of mountains and desert and is a combination of color, early mornings, late nights, and ballooning games you never knew possible. It is what dreams are made of. Your jaw will fall to the desert sands as you stare into blue skies, mesmerized by floating chickens, penguins, and sushi chefs above you. You’ll see Darth Vader’s oversized head looming over a trio of sweet bumble bees. “Traditional” balloon shapes will seem mundane but surprise you with their bright colors and intricate patterns.

Wake early for the Dawn Patrol, as you watch balloons lift into morning skies to test wind strength and direction. A 4:30am wakeup is necessary to beat long lines of cars stretching through parking lot, side street, and highway. But it’s worth it. After a 6:00am liftoff, stick around, grab some hot coffee and green chile burritos and watch others start to pour in. You can walk through the rows and rows of balloons and see how each balloon crew works together to unroll, untie, secure, and inflate the balloon. Take care to leave space for them and do not touch the balloon with your bare hands or try to jump or walk over the balloon at any time. All of the above will earn you a slight slap on the wrist, as these works of art are too costly and too fragile to risk being trampled on or touched with your curious fingers, still oily from that tasty green chile burrito.

Still, watch, learn, and keep your eyes to the skies, to the ground, to the mountains and to the open air. When you leave the park after take off, be careful to keep your eyes on the road as well. You’ll notice balloon crews all over the streets trying their best to judge the winds and determine where their balloon might land so they can be on site to ensure a safe landing and help get the balloon packed away quickly so they can begin their all important celebratory picnic. The balloon crew vehicles are pretty easy to spot, since they each will have a large magnet or sticker saying “Balloon Crew” – pretty simple!

Enjoy your afternoon siesta and return back to the park to watch games ranging from sky high target shooting dipping baskets in the waters of the Rio Grande. As the sky darkens, you’ll also be delighted to find balloons lighting up the sky in a nightly event known as the After Glow, followed by an insane fireworks show.

Grab your jackets as it tends to be the first cold weekend in Albuquerque’s Fall Season, and head on down. While you’re there, keep your eyes out for “I’m Bananas 2” and go say HI to the crew – my family and friends, they’ve supported me through all my journeys and even taken me into the skies on different occasions. They’re a beautiful bunch with a beautiful balloon duplicating the color scheme and relative pattern of New Mexico’s state flag.

“The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
And set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.”

Access Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s full line up and information-overloaded website at:  http://www.balloonfiesta.com/#

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