My first morning at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta had been incredible. After spending most of the morning reigning in my disappointment and expecting the event to be weathered out, I was amazed when the balloon launch finally happened. I got to run around with joy and watch hundreds of colorful balloons lift up into the heavens above me. The entire journey to get here had been worth it.
I had been so immersed in the experience that I hadn’t noticed how dark and cloudy the skies were becoming. The winds had shifted directions, and a lot of troublesome clouds were rapidly rolling in. To my left, far off in the distance, a couple of hot air balloons seemed to become consumed by a thick dark haze. They had caught some strange winds, separated from most of the other balloons, and now they were definitely flying in rain. The balloons were engulfed by the misty gray haze and vanished in the dark cloudy sky. I didn’t even know balloons could fly in rain, and I felt a bit worried for them. Minutes later, the balloon launch was being called off for the day. Bad weather was fast approaching. Nobody else would be taking off, and the pilots in the air were being told on radio to land as soon as possible. The balloon launch was over, but weather depending, there would still be events happening all day at Balloon Fiesta.
Now that the balloon launch was over, the sprawling crowd began a mass exodus towards the parking lot. I had no desire to leave, my day was just getting started. So I went in different direction, toward a giant colorful building that was very big and brightly lit. A Hot Air Balloon Museum! This seemed like a fun activity to do after watching the mass ascension of hundreds of hot air balloons.
Although the majority of the spectators had gone directly towards the parking lot (what a traffic jam that would be!) there was a pretty good crowd at the entrance of the museum. I had just gotten in line when the strong winds and black clouds covered the skies. It started to rain on all of us as I waited for a ticket. By the time I had entered the museum, it was pouring. A lot of people were getting completely drenched waiting to get into the museum. Streaks of lightning electrified the skies and massive claps of thunder shook the earth. I was thankful to be inside already and the line outside was longer than ever. Hopefully there were no balloons still in the air. Huge crowds of people filled the museum to escape the rain. But despite the inclement weather, I was pretty happy, and the museum tour proved to be a great way to pass the storm.
A couple hours later, the rain had stopped. I wandered back to the main road of the event which was now deserted. All the booths and food vendors had completely shut down after the torrential downpour. The street was full of big puddles. And the skies above were a drab gray. I felt like I was walking in a ghost town, and it was hard to imagine that just a few hours earlier the street had been so packed that I couldn’t even move. Suspicious dark clouds kept rolling over the skies, so I was never sure that the rain wasn’t about to start again. Slowly, more and more people began to trickle back into the event.
As I continued to explore, the loud buzz of chainsaws filled the air. I had found the wood carving competition! I glanced over and saw several guys with goggles, behind caged protection, wielding big loud chainsaws and sawing away at huge chunks of wood. It was incredible to watch them slowly and precisely chisel away at the wood with chainsaws and create stunningly detailed images. I couldn’t even fathom how they were possibly doing this fascinating artwork. One man was carving a big bear. Another guy was creating an old man with a cane. There was a dragon, a Jesus, and many more. I spent a lot of time marveling at their work, and would come back countless times throughout the course of the day to see their artistic progress.
How does anyone ever even discover that they have a latent talent for chainsaw wood carving? How many unknown potentially gifted chainsaw wood carvers are out there, waiting to stumble upon their gift? What if I was one? Hah! Not likely.
I was excited for Music Fiesta. There was a large stage set up, and now that the rain had stopped, they were doing sound checks before the concerts started. I love live music and was so happy that the storms had passed for now. Hopefully it would stay dry and I could enjoy the concerts.
I’ll admit, I was a bit … disappointed… when all the music ended up being country music. I was torn between my desire to hear live music and my dislike for the country music genre. Eventually my love for live music prevailed, but I compromised by sitting pretty far away. I laid back in the now dry grass, enjoyed the music from a distance, and watched the clouds roll through the sky. Slowly the weather started to clear and a rainbow even formed over the mountains! What a day!
Eventually I started feeling restless at the concert. I glanced across the vast open grass field to now see a lone hot air balloon inflating. It looked enormous in the now empty field, and the brilliant colors stood as a sharp contrast against the drab gray sky. It called out to me like a beacon and I immediately ran straight for it to observe what was happening. Sorry, Country Music Fiesta, but I had cooler things to go see.
Apparently, this balloon had gotten stuck in a rainstorm at today’s launch. They had to land immediately and fortunately everyone was safe. Now they were inflating the balloon again as a way to dry it out before they properly packed it up. One lady was extremely nice, and as I asked her more questions about ballooning, she gave me some gloves and said I could help crew the balloon if I wanted!
“We can never have too many on the crew!” she told me. I got to help them deflate, fold, and pack up the balloon. It was amazing how small all that fabric condensed into once deflated and properly folded. It all went into a bag and got carried into a trailer on the back of their pickup truck.
My biggest issue with the balloon fiesta had been that I didn’t like being a spectator at something so amazing. Helping crew this balloon let me feel like a participant, if only just for a moment. She gave me their card. It turns out they were from Colorado! I made a note of it.
Perhaps I will go visit them some day.