It looked like a field of colorful lightbulbs for the Jolly Green Giant. Well, that is until you got to the row of character hot air balloons. These looked like toys. Then, all 550 randomly took to the sky, flying off into the distance.
The Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque did not disappoint.
I think my favorite part was the "dawn patrol." A few balloons volunteered to be the first up before the official mass launch. They tested the wind currents for the others. These pilots were the early birds, arriving and setting up before the others. (Yes, we were there. Got up at 3:30 a.m. to be sure we saw everything.)
The national anthem echoed across the field as balloons launched carrying the American flag. The mountainous backdrop and sunrise added to the ceremony. As the two balloons carrying the flag flew over balloon teams blasted a fire stream to honor the red, white and blue.
As the "dawn patrol" flew off into the distance, the fun was revving up. One of the most unique things about this fiesta was how close spectators actually got to the balloons. We walked right up to the balloons on the field and freely roamed.
Some teams even asked for help rolling out the balloon; holding a flap back as they set up a box fan to fluff/air up the ballon. One team even took kids inside of their balloon to get a good look and to experience the vastness. This team had us help hold down the basket as they inflated the balloon with hot air. No wonder people keep going back year after year! This up close experience takes the entire thing up a notch.
At some points during the mass launch, I just stood in awe and totally forgot about my camera. I was more concerned about experiencing the moment than capturing it. Sometimes, it really is better to lower the lens and just be. There's nothing like hundreds of balloons taking off all around you.
I'd definitely go back and encourage anyone else to go at least once.