So Very Special
By Steven Robert Allen
A sneak preview at the special shapes to be unveiled at this year's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The standard ovoid form of a traditional hot air balloon is a thing of beauty. It has a classical allure that will always be attractive. Yet the most popular shapes at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta tend to be the special ones—the dragons, the sailing ships, the Creamland cow. Remember that big one of Jesus? Or the giant cell phone? Or the hamburger? This year, in addition to printing the full schedule for the fiesta, we've decided to give our readers a glimpse at some of the most inventive shapes you'll find at this year's event. Some of these are almost too spectacular to believe. Enjoy!
Here’s a balloon that’s sure to terrify Fiesta crowds. This enraged sasquatch balloon is owned by occasional Alibi contributor Nick Brown. Nick invested a small fortune in this project as a testament to the lifelong fascination with cryptozoology of his famous great-grandfather, Enoch Brown. In 1922, you might recall, Enoch became world famous for discovering the Maruka, a race of white-fur-covered pygmies who resided in a remote area of Canada’s Northwest Territories until the late ‘30s, when they mysteriously vanished, leaving nothing behind but their elaborate treehouse villages and an epic pictographic poem carved on to towering stone columns that scholars have been unable to translate to this day.
The Alibi Box
Yet another example of the Weekly Alibi’s cutting-edge advertising innovation, this balloon in the shape of those ubiquitous blue and yellow distribution boxes is owned by Alibi cofounders Christopher Johnson and Dan Scott. Staff rides for free, right boys?
Balloon of Doom
Just in time for Halloween, this one comes to us via the fine folks at Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney that’s become famous for making boatloads of money in Iraq with a series of cushy, no-bid contracts, and by overcharging the U.S. government for basic goods and services (sometimes called “war-profiteering”). This balloon should look amazing during the Fiesta’s regular nighttime Balloon Glow events.
El Payaso del Vuelo
This flying luche libre balloon is owned by Univision, our nation’s largest Spanish-language TV station, and the fifth largest network in the United States (after ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX). It’s a gorgeous tribute to the colorful tradition of Mexican-style wrestling.
The People’s Porcupine
This porcupine-shaped craft is one of 14 animal-shaped balloons created by the Chinese government to promote the Beijing Zoo.
The Flying Pancake Machine
This Rube Goldbergian balloon is without a doubt the most hotly anticipated special shape balloon at this year’s Fiesta. Owned by famed German pilot and pancake enthusiast Klaus von Hinzel, this innovative design incorporates a complex mechanical system that uses the burner not only to lift the balloon but also to heat a gigantic airborne skillet, which the pilot then fills with prepared batter to cook giant pancakes that will be dropped on the crowd below. It’s hard to imagine that this will actually work, but von Hinzel insists that his “Flying Pancake Machine” is ready for its virgin run. His ground crew will be handing out paper plates along with packets of maple syrup on the Fiesta Park grounds. Be sure to keep watch over younger children. These pancakes are said to be truly enormous and could potentially cause injury to smaller viewers.
The Weight of the World
A floating anvil? Who’d a thunk? This ironic balloon is owned by Crawford Valance, the British multi-billionaire rumored to be planning a hip new theme park on a fabricated floating island off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.
A Change in the Weather
Owned by the robotics program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this playful balloon’s parts actually move while in flight. The heat from the burner also functions as a kind of thermal fuel for the meteorological monitoring devices stored in the robot’s head.
Jill Cohn • indie, singer-