Balloon Festival 2008 (Pic of the Week)

[photopress:dsc_6710_sm_blog.jpg,full,centered]

(click to enlarge)

“Daddy, do we get to ride in one?” Benjamin said.

“No, son. Most people who go to the Balloon Festival don’t get to ride in one,” I said.

“But I want to ride in one,” he whined.

“That’s not how it works, Ben,” Shannon said.

“But I want to ride in one.”

We repeated this conversation about three or four times that very long Saturday as the launch time slowly approached.

(veritable photo blowout coming after the jump)

Our plan was to watch the balloons launch and then go home, so we could get Benjamin to bed on time and he and I could report back early in the morning to see the sunrise launch.

We thought we had left in plenty of time to get to the hot air balloon launch, but then so did about 500,000 other people (give or take). Rather than trying to catch colorful snippets here and there from inside the car in stop-and-go traffic, I parked so we could at least watch from a parking lot. Lots of spectators with folding lawn chairs were content with a similar fate. Two or three balloons were in the air when we parked.

On the Way InShannon and I figured we ought to at least try to get closer, so we walked. Balloons two-toned and multi-colored passed silently overhead. Every few seconds another one climbed above the distant tree line and drifted our way. Most sported a recognizable brand name — All State, EDS Credit Union, ReMax — the kind of companies that can afford to sponsor a $35,000 balloon.

We walked a solid 45 minutes before reaching the ticket booth. Children scampered along a steep, grassy hillside to our right. Some rolled down it, their arms and legs tucked in close for maximum speed.

MassesThe launch was over, but we paid $5 each (Ben was free) to get in the gates. Our plan was unraveling. Pleasantly, but unraveling nonetheless.

Oddly, we saw lots of people holding helium-filled Mylar balloons with the title of the show “Yes, Dear” emblazoned on them. I wasn’t aware that the show was enjoying a resurgence. In fact, I’m not sure it had a “surgence” in the first place.

Panda-ing to the CrowdThe food alley (not pictured) was so densely packed with people that I could not take more than one step without having to turn out of somebody’s way. After about 10 minutes in the corn dog/cotton candy line, Benjamin and I ditched Shannon to scope the other eating establishments.

Mobile phones make these events much simpler for a family to manage. It was the first such event where we both had one, and they proved invaluable. Benjamin got his aforementioned festival food while Shannon and I enjoyed chicken tomatillo soft tacos from Blue Mesa Grill.

Vertical GlowApparently our new plan was to watch the balloon glow event. None of us had seen such a thing, and it sounded like fun.

“So, I guess this means Benjamin won’t be getting up with me to see the morning launch,” I said.

“Ah, no,” Shannon said.

We were farther back than I had hoped, but once it got dark the balloons glowed brightly enough that it didn’t matter. Sometimes they glowed in unison, sometimes at random.

The show over, we hiked back up the hill, with one stop for Benjamin to pose with his mommy. Oh, and the new light saber he had picked out at the junk toy tent. I’m glad I got those pictures, because by the next morning he had smacked it inoperable.

Light Saber Tricks     Two Best Reasons

I reported to Alvis’ house the next morning at about 6:20 a.m. and we made it down into the valley in plenty of time for the launch. In fact, we got there before they had rolled their balloons out of the baskets.

Loons in the MistThe mist hung in the valley as the ballooners (balloonists?) unfurled their colorful fabrics. Men with ropes, as if in some mighty tug of war, helped eased the balloons up as they filled with hot air. One by one the bulbous behemoths lifted off, at the wind’s mercy.

Alvis and I snapped away with our dueling Nikon DSLR’s. That early in the morning, I was not surprised to see more than a handful of other people similarly serious about their photos, and most sporting the same brand of camera.

Veteran     And It's Up

On our walk out we met a man who gave us lens envy. He had a 400mm f/2.8 lens on a Canon DSLR. For perspective, imagine the camera lenses you see on the sideline of college and professional sports events.

“Oh, you’re shooting Nikon, I’m sorry,” he said and laughed. “No, just kidding. I have friends who use Nikon.”

“So, are you just a hobbyist, or are you shooting for somebody?” I said.

“I just do it for fun.”

He then told us that he had about $35,000 worth of camera equipment stolen while on vacation. Alvis and I left wondering what his day job was and how we could get one. Or, why the guy didn’t just buy his own hot air balloon instead of taking pictures of them.

Pushing Up Daisy     Flower Flight

(Note: the vignetting effect on these photos was unintentional. It was caused by my cheap, consumer zoom lenses.)

6 thoughts on “Balloon Festival 2008 (Pic of the Week)

  1. OK, I laughed at the “pushing up daisy” caption, but it was unintentional.

    The lightsabre shot was VERY cool, and the huge crowd picture was pretty impressive, too. My fave, though, is the Panda pic. (Horribly punny caption aside. Seriously, Mark, what were you thinking?) The huge bear is looming over the crowd like some innocent spectre, and the people in the shot are doing just exactly what you’d expect them to be doing at a large gathering like that. Captured the essence of the event, for me. (You know, not being there and all.)

    So, was Ben disappointed that he didn’t get to go to the dawn launch, having stayed up too late? Or did you not tell him in the first place, on the off chance that what might happen is what actually happened, and you wanted to stave off disappointment? Because we do that ALL the time, let me tell you.

    Preventive parenting. Learn it; do it.

  2. You guessed it, Simon – he never even knew there was a possibility he would be going in the morning, so it was all good!

  3. Very cool pictures and story Mark!!!

    We have a balloon festival not far from where I live.. but this year it got rained out two weeks in a row.

    So did YOU get to ride in a balloon??

  4. I loved your story, and, frankly, I’m a little jealous of the great pictures. I caught the tail-end of the festival on Sunday evening. I missed out on the Daisy and the Panda, but I got to see Oggy the Dragon and Woodrow the Tree. If you’re of a mind to, you can check out my perspective of the event.

    Cheers!

Comments are closed.