To get the full impact of the Balloon Fiesta, you have to be on the grounds well before sunrise - one reason is the traffic getting into the area and parking lots, the other is to catch these lighter-than-air marvels as they begin to take shape!
The first thing one needs to do is to check the local weather forecast. If it’s too windy, the morning schedule will be cancelled (which is why I booked lodging and admission for the entire week). The MOST important matter of this early morning spectacle if remembering where you parked your rental - white is a vast majority of those parked in the lots!
As you enter the arena, you’ll notice there are NO restrictions for being on the launching fields! You are encouraged to help unwrapping the balloon prior to the burner being lit.
I stood back and watched as those special shapes began to take form - it was almost as if they were being awakened from a deep sleep. In a matter of time the envelope was filled and ready to launch. Before it is aloft, the pilot needs approval from one of the “zebras” - officials adorning stripped clothing. They are very easy to spot! These very dedicated men and women are awaiting the okay from the “Rainbow Warriors.” Several smaller balloons will be launched pre-dawn to check on the winds. If they send back a favorable report - the launchings can begin!
And, begin they do. . . As you are standing on the field watching Darth Vader launch, you’ll see another ten to fifteen balloons also at the ready stage. And, then behind that wave some fifteen or twenty are in the air! Some eight hundred balloons filled the skies when I was there!
And, off they go - mass ascension!
© Joe Kennedy Photography