Covering the Land of Lincoln

Balloons and sunshine: Perfect day for the Fiesta

Balloons are inflated for the mass ascent on the opening day on Saturday morning. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Laughter director Nicole Tagart keeps her fingers crossed for the start on Saturday morning.  (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Laughter director Nicole Tagart keeps her fingers crossed for the start on Saturday morning. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Rio Rancho balloonist Steven Derebey lights the burner to inflate his balloon before it takes off on Saturday morning.  (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Rio Rancho balloonist Steven Derebey lights the burner to inflate his balloon before it takes off on Saturday morning. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

John Glover started collecting pins when his son Kameron Glover was born in 2000.  He shows his collection when the Darth Vader balloon takes off on Saturday morning.  (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

John Glover started collecting pins when his son Kameron Glover was born in 2000. He shows his collection when the Darth Vader balloon takes off on Saturday morning. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Balloons are inflated for the mass ascent on the opening day on Saturday morning.  (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Balloons are inflated for the mass ascent on the opening day on Saturday morning. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Pone Russ, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, speaks to a new friend while a fleet of hot air balloons flies in the distance on Saturday night.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Pone Russ, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, speaks to a new friend while a fleet of hot air balloons flies in the distance on Saturday night. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

April Charlton with the Rising Star holds the basket tight as they inflate themselves for the Twilight Twinkle Glow Saturday.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

April Charlton with the Rising Star holds the basket tight as they inflate themselves for the Twilight Twinkle Glow Saturday. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Julian Redhouse, 11, and Ariana Evans, 11, of Farmington, play with bubbles and a small balloon as the full-size versions inflate themselves for Saturday's Twilight Twinkle Glow.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Julian Redhouse, 11, and Ariana Evans, 11, of Farmington, play with bubbles and a small balloon as the full-size versions inflate themselves for Saturday’s Twilight Twinkle Glow. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

A kid in a bacon costume runs under Pigasus while Tyler Jacques hits the gas during the Twilight Twinkle Glow on Saturday.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

A kid in a bacon costume runs under Pigasus while Tyler Jacques hits the gas during the Twilight Twinkle Glow on Saturday. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Pilots step on the gas to light up their balloons during Saturday's Twilight Twinkle Glow.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Pilots step on the gas to light up their balloons during Saturday’s Twilight Twinkle Glow. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Fankie Martinez lights the Raks Building Supply balloon for Saturday's Twilight Twinkle Glow.  (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Fankie Martinez lights the Raks Building Supply balloon for Saturday’s Twilight Twinkle Glow. (Nadav Soroker / For the diary)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A bright blue sky, warm temperatures and a light wind. All in all, almost perfect conditions on Saturday for the return of the 49th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was canceled due to the pandemic last year.

“It was a beautiful morning in Albuquerque, even though we didn’t have a box (wind pattern),” said Marilyn Wallace of Santa Monica, piloting her Rainbow Through Heaven balloon.

“We had a nice flight and nice gentle winds to land and a nice community involvement when we cast off there on Osuna,” she said.

According to Fiesta officials, 548 balloons, including 84 specially shaped balloons, are registered for participation in the fiesta, which lasts through October 10. International pilots came from Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Mexico.

Unsurprisingly, the traffic at Balloon Fiesta Park was extremely heavy. A police officer on a motorcycle was hit by a car while the officer tried to break into San Mateo, San Diego, east of the park, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. The officer was rushed to hospital with a leg injury and the driver was cited, he said.

In the park, long lines quickly formed in front of tents and stalls selling food, drinks and goods.

“I don’t really like the lines, but I’ll wait for coffee,” said Amber Wilcox of Denver, excited to attend her first balloon fiesta and anxious for the mass ascent to begin.

The tent that sold official Balloon Fiesta items was full of people looking for that particular Fiesta item or garment.

Ed and Marie Malandris from El Paso had just bought two T-shirts, a balloon patch, and several balloon needles. The couple makes their “annual trek” to Albuquerque just for the fiesta, where Ed Malandris brings some of his personal collection of balloon needles to sell and trade at the pin trade event.

“We like coming here,” he says. “It’s beautiful with all the special shapes and different types of balloons from all over the world. We were definitely disappointed when it was canceled last year, but we knew it would return sooner or later in some shape or way. “

Thousands of people began clapping and taking photos at 6:30 a.m. as the Dawn Patrol balloons took off, lit up against a backdrop of dark skies. Soon the silhouette of the Sandias became clearer as the sun rose behind them.

A flyover of seven aircraft in formation, carried out by the planes of Chile Flight, boomed over the field, while the national anthem rang out from the loudspeakers. A crescent moon seemed to vanish as the mass rise began and balloons filled the sky with the expected cornucopia of colors and textures.

It was the first visit to Albuquerque for Juliana Wynkoop from Sacramento, California, who produces her own YouTube channel, Tourist to Local, where she and her husband create travel guides and highlight unique events.

“I felt like it was a double blow to see this great event and see the great city of Albuquerque,” she said.

Pilot Matt Mitchell, from Champaign, Illinois, has been flying the Fiesta since 1980. In addition to his Travelin ‘Lite balloon, he will also fly his special shape balloon El-Fonz, the gray elephant.

“There is no comparison with other fiestas because you have the great infrastructure here,” he said. “Unfortunately, apartments are built so close to the field, and that will change the dynamics, especially in light winds.”

Hundreds of brightly colored balloons soared into the sky on Saturday morning during the opening fair of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Roberto E. Rosales, Albuquerque Journal)

Venkat Minnaganti, an infectious disease doctor from India now practicing in Decatur, Illinois, first came to the fiesta.

“It’s just beautiful. I am not a man of letters, I cannot describe it. There’s just nothing like it, ”he said.

However, a very articulate 8 year old Jaxon Glance from Albuquerque had less trouble finding the words. Sitting on a deck chair with his family, when asked what he thought of the spectacle, he said “this is the most significant moment of my life”. Then he explained that the Golden Corral balloon was his favorite.

“He’s probably thinking about breakfast,” said his father Carl Glance, amused.

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