Hey there folks,
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!
And having been a lifelong New Mexico citizen, it was high time I attended such a festival. And I must say, reader, it has its charm, but it isn’t something I’m keen on attending in the future.
Armed with the foreknowledge of my brother and his charming wife, the family set out to finally attend one of New Mexico’s greatest attractions.
My younger brother (the one who lives here in Albuquerque) has been trying for ages to get the family together in his neck of the woods for quite a spell now. Never mind the logistical nightmare this can cause upon a family spread throughout the state – we were going to Balloon Fiesta as a family, dammit!
After a lovely Friday evening together schmoozing and showing off the babies, the plan was finally cemented: Saturday morn – at approximately 4AM – we would depart the safety and sanity of our cozy beds in favor of the chilly Autumn morning, doing our best to secure a good spot at this rather enormous attraction.
The plan certainly was executed (almost) flawlessly for we arrived at the venue a whole two hours afore the Dawn Patrol was even rarin’ to go. No matter, we thought, for we can succor ourselves upon the many overpriced victuals and do our best to claim a spot within the overcrowded grounds.
So there we were, milling about in the frigid cold as hordes of other zombie balloon enthusiasts filed past, eager to get there $3.00 muddy water, waiting for the first balloon to ascend into glory and greatness.
But, small world that it is, I was soon met with quite a joyous sight: two of my fellow Camino comrades from the APOC gathering April past! And not just any two – no, not at all! – but a charming couple heading out to be hospitaleros in El Burgo Ranero!
Yes, the very same El Burgo.
We schwatzed for a bit, introductions were made, and buen Caminos were wished before we parted ways. Only living here just over a month and a half and I’m already running into familiar faces.
Finally, after what seemed ages standing around with our proverbial thumbs within our frozen asses, the Dawn Patrol began inflating. Holy hell – it was happening!
The Star Wars theme was booming from a thousand speaker systems as announcers welcomed the massive crowd to the fiesta, a massive laser show complemented the twinkling stars in the distance, burgeoning balloons were beginning to dot the inky horizon as they slowly inflated, and you could feel the excitement in the air as the countdown begun!
Ten thousand voices cheered in abject appreciation as the Dawn Patrol…
Lit their fucking torches.
A fucking countdown? Seriously? To watch them ignite? What the bloody fucking hell, Albuquerque? I was expecting the Dawn Patrol to lift off into the air in formation, dropping bombs of awesome from rainbow waves, booming thunder and fire following in their wake.
Not light a giant fucking light bulb.
The countdown was repeated thrice and each time I was disappointed when they simply bbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrttttt‘ed their torches again and again. So much for a bitchin’ lift-off. When they finally ascended, they did so one at a time.
And not a single firebomb of awesome was dropped.
After the Dawn Patrol made their laborious rounds about the venue, the other balloonists were given the go-ahead to lift off into the air. Now that was impressive! Hundreds of balloons took off, clouding the sky with their many shapes, sizes, colors, and capitalist slogans promoting a genuine ballooning experience for a small fee!
Despite my sardonic humor, comrades, it was quite incredible to watch the balloons go off into the sky. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
But how soon does the charm wear off: balloon inflates, crowds gather, pictures, balloon goes off, crowd cheers, selfies, rinse and repeat.
Yawn – it certainly isn’t worth fighting the crowds, paying a fee, and finding parking for the experience when you can achieve the same result by simply getting atop a hill from anywhere in the city. These are massive fucking pieces of inflatable plastic in pastel colors: you can literally see them from any elevated point in town. There’s absolutely no reason to be nut to butt to witness such a thing.
And people want to make this a yearly tradition? Nah, I’m kosher. One and done, as I say.
We stayed for perhaps another hour or so, watching the hundreds ascend into the sky, the crowd growing ever stronger as the smarter sleepers began to arrive. If everyone had a sword, we probably could have stormed Jerusalem. Deus Vult!
We finally departed the venue, veritably exhausted, somewhat elated, and in my case, mostly disappointed. Sure, it was neat to see them and cross this off the bucket list, but this is definitely a northern New Mexican thing; what is all the fuss about, eh?
As we drove away, I noticed a good smattering of balloons were already beginning their descent. Many more had already landed throughout the metro area. Seriously? All that hype to get into the air and immediately descend once you’re past the venue grounds? We’re not invading England here; spend some time in the air!
For me, comrades, the real treat of the weekend was the family barbecue we had at my brother’s pad that evening. Maybe watching pieces of inflated plastic and fabric ascend into the sky isn’t my thing, but being around kin – old and new – that will always be better than any event or venue. Yes, the Fiesta wasn’t all I expected, but at least I can say I’ve experienced it.
We gorged ourselves on ribs and booze, laughing and joking the night away. The bitter morning cold was but a distant memory now. For few things are more precious than family, food, fun, and fire. And for a few hours, hell, we had it all.