Scene will soon be dotted with fascinating designs & hysterical images as special shape balloons take to skies over Albuquerque!

October 2, 2010

Good Early Morning its Balloon Fiesta 2010!!! And wouldn’t you know that we have had crystal clear blue skies with near, if not, record-breaking temperatures in the 80s and 90s this past week and what did the Weather Channel’s map show tonight but a massive area of green – 25% of the entire country! From New Mexico all the way up to Washington State and every square inch in between the promise of rain threatened!! “Isolated thunderstorms” is the forecast, and as we sat out on the patio this evening without a breath of air moving and the warm mild end of summertime providing a perfect setting for alfresco dining, I sipped my tequila and thought…it’s Balloon Fiesta and the weather nose-dives just in time for all the out-of-towners to wonder “what’s all the hype about the perfect weather in New Mexico?”
Weather aside, I love to chase balloons. Not like on a chase crew, although I’m sure that would be tons of fun to be connected to one balloon and watch its progress and participate in its launch and retrieval…but just willy nilly – get out there and drive beneath them, watch them land, rush to follow another…its colorful, exciting, and full of surprises!
The best, of course, are the special shapes. This year we have 18 new ones joining the Fiesta – making about 90 participating! We have special launches with just the special shapes – “special shapes rodeo” and the “balloon glow” where they are tethered to the field, inflated with the fan-assisted flaming gas units that slowly fill the envelopes and force them to arise, come to life and become the gigantic multi-colored images that they depict, brilliantly glowing in the darkness. The announcer does periodic countdowns to orchestrate them all lighting at the same time. The tremendous blast of noise, as the burners are lit in unison, contributes to the excitement of the scene.
These designs are fantastic. No, that’s not a big enough word – not nearly descriptive enough…these designs are incredible – they are whimsical, complicated, extraordinarily large and impressive. They are funny and powerful, they make everyone go “ahhhhhhhh, whoa, oh my, look at that one…” They entertain, delight, impress, and dazzle even the veteran balloon enthusiasts.
In anticipation of writing this blog on the subject, I Googled designers of special shapes. Before long I was immersed in the many sites that feature the design and fabrication of special shaped hot air balloons. The most interesting to me was Cameron Balloons. Here is the link to their remarkable gallery.
What was so fun was that there were so many that were familiar. Having been represented here at the International Balloon Fiesta for so many years these special shapes are like a part of our community. Many actually are from our community while others travel from around the world to participate in this most magnificent of ballooning events.
The complexity of the design of these flying objects is truly amazing. They often appear to be quite unable to fly. The appendages, whether animated or representational of building structures, vehicles and all manner of creations, seem to promise certain failure in their sometimes not-so-graceful ascension into the sky. Then one-by-one they inflate with legs projecting, massive forms dwarfing the gondolas and sure enough, the next thing you know, the sky is dotted with fascinating and hysterical shapes that cannot be limited other than by the designer’s imagination and the engineer’s technical expertise. The longtime local favorite, the enormous, gangly, Creamland Cow, is one of those that defy reason when imagining the proposed successful flight of a hot air balloon.
Imagine deciding upon a theme for YOUR hot air balloon…it might be your business’s product, a favorite childhood character, a mascot, a logo, and you take it to a company and discuss your idea with their designers and leave them to their genius. Imagine the designers – presented with an idea, a concept not unlike an architect presented with a building project and the realm of possibilities that race through their heads, transfer to sketches and on to the CAD programs that aid and facilitate the modifications and intricacies of the design through all of its stages. Then the test flight – the moment of truth – when all the art, technology and popping champagne corks come together for the maiden voyage.
Here along the Rio Grande we like the splash and dash thrills of that quick touchdown on the surface of the water and equally as quick blast of hot airs that pulls the gondola, up and away,  safe from becoming an ineffective nautical craft! Out in the desert and the fields of our valley, the pilots are tested as to their soft landing abilities. Make my cocktail on the rocks – not my landing, thank you!
So get your cameras ready, because whether it’s the Space Shuttle or Darth Vader, Wells Fargo’s Stagecoach or the giant Whopper you can bet that it’s going to be a thrill to witness and you will surely find yourself saying “ahhhhhh!”


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