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.
Last month, my father and I lucked out. A friend of my mother's revealed she and her husband were long-time balloonists and offered to take us up with them for a small fee: wake up at five in the morning and work as part of the crew. My mother has trepidations about heights, and I'm told my younger brother became rather disinterested when roused from bed at that time of morning, and so my father and I were left to rush across town feeling like people who were about to turn into tiny, flying ants. Here's what we saw.