The Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2023
Where do we begin to tell you about this amazing experience? This was our first organized event through Escapees. For those of you not familiar with Escapees, it is an organization that brings together RVers (full timers and just people who own RVs). We purchased our spot at the fiesta with the group last March. With this purchase, we were ensured a spot on the field adjacent to the launch field, 4 tickets each to enter the events, catered breakfasts and dinners for 10 days, organized activities (a train ride to Santa Fe was one we took part in!), and comradery. We came with zero expectations. We can tell you it was worth the experience!
Our particular group was called a HOP (Head Out Program). They created a Facebook group for us to join and introduce ourselves before arriving. A few days before the fiesta, there was a post asking if anyone wanted to volunteer to crew a balloon. Heck ya! We signed up and it was truly the best part of the adventure!
We were assigned to a hot air balloon pilot that we would assist on the days he planned on going up and coming down. We arrived several days early to set up, become acquainted with the land and honestly, just to avoid the traffic. On Thursday, Oct. 5th, we attended our safety training where a pilot went over the 'must knows' on crewing. It was a bit intimidating!! On Friday, October 6, we went to an elementary school with a different pilot for a program called Albuquerque Aloft where pilots set up in fields near schools so families can come see balloons up close. We had an awesome experience and met a woman from our group we were paired with to help the pilot during the fiesta.
The fiesta officially began on Saturday, October 7th...and we had to be on the field at 6AM. We got to the entrance with thousands of others to find our pilot. We worked along two awesome pilots who needed help. We mostly did crowd control that first day! The second day, Ashleigh got a ride with pilot Dave. What a surreal experience being in the air with over 500 other balloons! Words cannot describe how peaceful the flight was and looking out to see other balloons at eye level about 1,300 feet above ground.
During the week, our pilot Jerry competed in their competitions. The competitors had to find a spot to launch at least one mile away from the field and come back to the field to either drop bean bags on targets or toss rings on to poles! It was wild!! The first time, about 15 balloons set up in a space about 2 acres large! It was a tight squeeze to get them off the ground! We also took part in some chases to find our pilot and pack them up!
On Friday, Oct. 13, the fiesta showcases special shapes. Our favorites were Tom & Jerry, Sylvester (see Tweety's feather in his mouth!), and Elvis! There were over 100 special shapes alone!
In the evenings, there were Glows where the balloons stayed on the ground but lit up the balloons and they just glowed across the field. Every night ended with a drone show and fireworks.
Our campsite was adjacent from the launch field so some of the pictures here are from where the balloons came right over our rig or landed nearby.
Without a doubt, this was a special event. We were glad we crewed! It was such a fun experience we may be doing it again in 2024!