After living in the Duke City for more than five years, I finally can say that I’ve attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Well, I guess I could have claimed that before, but now the statement would be true.
Although only two of the scheduled nine days of the event have passed, I already have a few observations to make. First, if you are planning on attending the event in the future, I highly recommend that you figure out a way to be paid for your time spent there. Otherwise, I’m not convinced that it is worth the effort and cost.
As for the effort, I’m talking about the traffic and wading through the seemingly endless sea of humanity. Imagine fighting through heavy traffic to get to a shopping mall on Krismas Eve, then having to choose from relatively tacky “fair-quality” goods for those on your shopping list. That isn’t to say that some of the merchandise isn’t downright expensive.
As for the expense, admission to the balloon park is $6.00 per day or event, and parking is $10.00 per car. As an alternative, fiesta goers have the option of taking advantage of the city’s park and ride program. However, at $10.50 per person, that route really only pays off if you are a family of two or less. Plus, given the lines of people I’ve seen waiting to get a ride back to their cars, you might as well just find a soothing station on your car stereo and settle in for the slow ride into the park in your own vehicle.
I arrive at around 4:00 am each morning to set up my camera and discuss with the other camera operators how we are going to shoot the event, or wait through the rain to see whether or not the morning’s launch is going to be cancelled (as was the case Sunday). I have a good hour after set-up before anything is going to happen, which leaves me free to wander about in search of food. The choices are as varied as one would expect to find at the state fair… pancakes on a stick, breakfast burritos, deep fried Twinkies, pizza, jumbo baked potatoes, turkey drumsticks, cinnamon rolls, corn dogs, bloomin’ onions, roasted ears of corn, funnel cakes, pretzels, gyros, nachos, tacos, caramel apple chips, dippin’ dots, and of course, “Wisconsin fried cheese curds.”
Sunday morning I ended up wandering into the media tent where I gathered my breakfast of a cup of hot chocolate, a breakfast burrito, a donut and a Crown and Sierra Mist. Unfortunately, I must report that the only Coke product that I’ve seen in the entire park is the clock on the wall inside the Freelance West Video trailer.
Food isn’t the only thing for sale at the balloon fiesta. I suspect (and hope) that they have assembled what must be the single largest marketplace for balloon related merchandise on this side of the sun. If you want balloon-themed hats, pins, posters, videos, sunglasses, wind chimes, sun catchers, wood roses, books, photos, calendars, post cards, ceramics, scrapbook kits, candles, Russian nesting dolls, or even quilts, come on down to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Heck, they even have strolling disposable Kodak camera vendors that also carry extra smart media cards and batteries for the digital crowd.
Color me cautious, but balloons and pins seems a most curious combo!
I’m not sure if I am going to be able to get any decent photographs of balloons launching or setting up for the evening glows since I am scheduled to shoot video during pretty much every event. Besides, there are TONS of those types of photos available online- just a Google away.
I find it interesting when I return to the balloon park in the late afternoon for an evening event and discover that the balloon field has been taken over by a throng of amateur kite enthusiasts. They don’t seem to mind the wind that threatens each and every hot air and gas balloon event.
I directed my first video production Saturday night. It was a two-hour concert by “Get Back,” a Beetles tribute band that included the original cast of “Beatlemania.” I basically sat inside a large video/audio truck and called for various shots from the camera operators, then punched them up on the giant video screen- every so often mixing in a kool special effect. It was very fun. I will also be directing during the Marty Stuart concert Thursday afternoon, and a few of the balloon events.