The special shapes emerging at this year’s International Balloon Fiesta
By Christie Chisholm
Over the next week, balloon enthusiasts from all over the world will congregate in Albuquerque to eat roasted corn, buy shot glasses with little balloons on them and get up at indecent hours to watch one of the city’s claims to fame glide into the air. Even for those of us who live here and see it every year, an early morning sky punctured with swollen polka dots does inspire a certain sense of awe. But while spectators enjoy most parts of the nine-day event, the best part for many lies in the “special shapes” balloons.
After last year’s special shapes (the yeti, flying pancake machine, Mexican wrestler, animated robot, etc.), we didn’t think the show could get much better for Balloon Fiesta-goers. But if we may say so, this year takes the big, inflated cake. Just as the event’s website claims, “few can resist the sheer charm of these fanciful balloons.”
Last year we had a number of readers ask if the special shapes creations that grace our pages were real or just a cruel joke on the part of Alibi staffers to spoil the spirits of Fiesta-goers. Why, of course they’re real—how could you doubt us? Anyone who says it's not possible for a balloon to warm flapjacks and shoot them into the audience while inflating itself isn't using their imagination. Here’s a sneak peak at this year’s entirely plausible concoctions, with useful descriptions provided by Laura Marrich, Marisa Demarco, Amy Dalness and Nick Brown. We hope you enjoy the show.
The Monkey on Nick Brown’s Back
For those who have grown weary of Alibi's incessant yeti references, there's a plain old monkey this year. Yes, a plain old monkey. Festivals, fairs, concerts, plays—what’s the point? Life is a treadmill of leisurely distractions and the Monkey Balloon is a but symbol. Let's all drink a toast to the Monkey Balloon and the hopeless, awkward shambles we wake up to every morning. Oh, and did I tell you I'm on the chase crew? Awesome! [NB]
40 oz to Freedom
What do malt liquor and hot-air ballooning have in common? Both get you sky-high, of course! Take a ride on the "Hobo Express," a king-sized helping of hooch in a peek-a-boo brown paper bag. This balloon ride is the most fun you'll ever have—too bad you won't remember any of it. [LM]
Everyone's favorite cockroach is a dead cockroach. Unless you're one of those buggy people who actually keeps the hissing kind as pets (ewwww), and if you are ... well ... don't look up. This freakishly lifelike balloon (or is it deathlike? zing!) will have onlookers chanting "Death to the roaches!" in a direct message to all those unwanted creepies: Get the hell out or we'll send you there. [AD]
Rube Goldberg Fishwrap Contraption
Inspired by last year's immensely popular Flying Pancake Machine, artist Rolf Von Shinebaum has fashioned a fully functional flying apparatus that draws on both the rich comedic value of Rube Goldberg's devices and the excitement of the television program "Nightline." This mechanical marvel demonstrates, in painful detail, the convoluted process writers toil through each week to produce your favorite piece of fishwrap, the Weekly Alibi. Shinebaum's staff is lobbying festival officials for the creation of a "Super Special Shapes" category for which only his balloon will qualify. The nerve! [NB]
The sword is real. This ninja totally flips out and hacks away at other balloons, chopping them into still-floating bits that litter the sky. Furious pilots and passengers cling to the debris one-handed, using their other hand to shake angry fists at the ninja. He’s been banned from every hot-air balloon gathering worldwide, except Albuquerque's. The ninja can only be pacified by the equally racially awkward Chiquita Banana balloon. It is rumored that the ninja loves Chiquita, prompting the gossip rags to call the couple “Ninjita.” [MD]
Paper Cut of Doom
Every time this lovely zeppelin takes to the sky, it's a different shape—from the infamous folded crane to the ever-popular "two overlapping diamonds on a square" most often seen made from the lined notebook paper of note-sending middle-school-aged girls. The physics that make this possible are mind-blowing, but you need not concern yourself with that. As a side note, once this balloon was prosecuted under public indecency laws after the pilot's mischievous teenage son snuck out early one morning and folded the origami balloon into a pair of genitals, incurring a chest-long paper cut in the process. No one caught the mistake until it was flying high. Oops! [MD]
Don't let those cute little legs fool you, this little piggy isn't going to market—it's out for blood. Javelinas may mainly eat vegetation, but that doesn't stop them from being violent when cornered and prodded with sticks. Balloon Fiesta patrons can rest assured that no harm will befall them or their loved ones, as this javelina is not real but merely a representation of the wild hog that took the balloon owner's leg during a tragic let's-get-drunk-and-kick-the-little-pig incident. Joe D. Teela, the balloon's owner (or Stumpy, as his friends call him), invites everyone to take photos with the beast, but asks that no one kick it. (It ruins the nylon.) [AD]
One Pack or Two?
With Gov. Bill Richardson's state ban on smoking kicking into effect, New Mexicans are snuffing out their cigarettes in record numbers. As for the resolute smokers who've hung on to their habits: the Citizens Opposed to Unreasonable Government Health Strictures (C.O.U.G.H.S.) salute you. Raise your cancer sticks to the sky when you see the "Thank You For Smoking" balloon drift into view. Smells like ... freedom. [LM]