The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is said- by some- to be the most photographed yearly event and, if true, why in the heck did Kodak give up the sponsorship a few years ago???
Not only is it one of the only places in the world where you can be 'on the field' as the 750 amazing colorful balloons lift off, you can rub shoulders with the 'officials', dressed in zebra referee outfits. They blow their whistles to individually lift off the balloons to prevent collisions! Early birds only, however, as the early morning liftoff is before sunrise to take advantage of less wind, and hopefully a successful liftoff. BUT, much more of the fun is experienced if you choose to be part of the 'chase crew' of a balloonist. You can apply-on line- before your arrival there or sign up to 'crew' when you get to Albuquerque. If help is needed, you will be assigned to assist the 'crew' lay out their balloon, help inflate it, and assist in take off. Then, hop in the chase vehicle to help spot the balloon's flight. Since the wind 'controls' the balloons flight path, the chase vehicle, and you, serpentine your way down the highways and through the streets to help plan the-hopefully -successfully landing! When the descent occurs, help guide the balloon to a safe landing and assist with folding up the balloon and loading it in the vehicle. IF your lucky, your balloonist may invite you for a gratuitous ride the next day to show his appreciation for your work. And, if it's your first hot air balloon ride, a first time semi-official ceremony takes place at the lift off field! If you do not assist in a launch, a balloon ride is a near must. To be among 749 other balloons, of all shapes, sizes and colors, soaring over Albuquerque is just amazing. The night glows are another 'gift' to observe certain evenings and the balloonists also have various 'competitions' among themselves to help maintain interest and participation.
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