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Professor Park Van Tassel inflates Burque’s first air balloon on July 4, 1882 where the Sunshine Theater now stands.
[click to enlarge]
Courtesy of Rio Grande Books

Balloon Fiesta

Picturing the Balloon Fiesta

Some great art from years past

While I think the Ballooon Fiesta is great, I have a little trouble getting there. First off, I hate getting up early. Second, I don’t like crowds. Third, I like traffic even less than I like crowds—at least you can move around in crowds.

That said, I enjoyed reading a few new books published on the aerial spectacle, and writing those books up in this week’s Alibi. I learned about the late, great Sid Cutter, and also got some tasty anecdotes about shark attacks. Love reading about shark attacks. But my favorite part about the new works was some of the great art the researchers managed to dig up. Whether it was a vacationing penguin balloon channeling his inner Jimmy Buffett or photos from the first balloon launch in Albuquerque back in the late 19th century, the visuals were truly awesome. Here are some highlights that didn’t make it to print:

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon book launch party pics

Hors d’oeuvres and hot air

Last night I attended a release party for a new book about the history of our beloved balloon fiesta, The World Comes to Albuquerque. The soiree was at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and it was a pretty swanky affair, with a jazz band and lots of cheese plates. I like to stand by those.

The nice folks at the Balloon Museum gave me a free copy of the book. It’s full of dozens of pictures, plus essays from balloonists and a tad about the history of ballooning. I’ll probably review that later, once I have time to read it.

For now, I will review the Balloon Museum itself: beautiful. Nice, futury layout, cool exhibits and great views. The space is little, for a museum, but worth checking out if you haven’t been. I’m definitely going back sometime when there isn’t a social engagement diverting me.

Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta 2010: Hanging from a bubble in the sky

I’m good with heights. I love ‘em. I like to dangle a foot over the edge of a ledge. Makes people around me crazy, so I do it when they aren’t looking.

I’m also good with aircraft. My pops is a private pilot (see also: gyrocopter), and so I’ve spent my share of time in a four-seater airplane. I can even help pilot the thing once it’s in the air.

I’m usually the person trying to calm others down when they’re freaking out about parasailing, or that ride that drops you from the top of a pole at the State Fair.

Yesterday morning, I stepped into the gondola of a hot-air balloon and watched the earth below grow farther and farther away from my feet. It was very quiet, except when pilot Scott Appleman fired the burner. I was staring straight down at the cars below. The wicker of the gondola creaked a little. And that’s when I realized I was standing in a basket.

I got pretty freaked out.

It’s a mistake on my part to think that an engine, metal and seat belts means you’re safer hundereds of feet in the air. I trust those things. A balloon is really just a bunch of nylon, a burner and a basket. And a balloon drifts as high as a single-prop plane, easy. But there are no walls between you and the sky.

When I stopped looking at the ground and began to look around at the city, the horizon, the other balloons, it was fantastic.

Appleman of Rainbow Ryders is a great pilot. There are 31 balloons in the fleet during Fiesta, and the company flies 230 passengers every morning. The rainbow balloons take up a whole row at the grounds. Appleman was participating in the flying competition during our flight, which yesterday was balloon golf. He had to toss a ribbon near a flag pole after angling his balloon just right over the Balloon Fiesta park.

If you ever have the opportunity to get in a hot-air balloon, take it.

Tania Goldfeder-Wolfe

Balloon Fiesta

This Week's Feature: 2010 Unofficial Balloon Fiesta Guide, Fractal Man’s amazing homegrown flying machine

The Fractal Man's amazing homegrown flying machine! Mathematician has airborne art down to a science.

And, check out our Balloon Fiesta 2010 Schedule, along with parking, pricing, and transportation info.