As I write this, the official countdown on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015 website reads: 0 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, and 12 seconds remaining before lift-off on October 3, 2015. What an exciting time for balloonists, fiesta organizers, and lucky ticket holders who will be making their way to the launch field for this year’s 44th annual “most photographed” balloon event in the world.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on Balloon Fiesta based upon our four sessions we attended in 2014. And although our two afternoon sessions were cancelled due to impending dangerous weather leaving us with no view of a Balloon Glow, we reveled in the colorful, awesome morning sessions we did see — the Special Shape Rodeo and Mass Ascension on the last day.
If you’re headed to Balloon Fiesta 2015 or any future fiestas, here are some tips that we wish we had known. Most of them appear in tourist brochures readily available in hotel lobbies and in pages on the official website and make for “good to know” information.
- Dress in layers. Early pre-dawn sessions begin with the Dawn Patrol firing up and launching into the darkness. So if you’ve been on the field for a while waiting to capture that must-see event, you could be cold. Jacket needed. But once the sun comes up, you’ll be shedding those outer coverings quickly. Get ready to peel!
- Bring seating if you want to be stationary. Quilts on the ground, folding chairs, makeshift stools. Doesn’t matter. A limited number of picnic tables and benches are laid out at the edge of the field, but first-comers nab those quickly. You may want to bring your own resting place. (Personal note: We didn’t want to carry anything but our cameras, so we chose to stand most of the time. But note to self: If you want a chair, bring your own.)
- Think about food and drink before you leave home. Yes, ample consumables are available on Main Street, even for early-morning coffee drinkers like us. But in the excitement of it all, you may be dead center of hundreds of balloons far away from the
food vendors. Pack your snacks with your other bring-alongs like jacket, camera, etc., and you’ll be ready for the long haul.
- Examine the route and parking lot maps before you leave home or hotel. The website contains excellent maps in the Guest Guide, so plan your route ahead of time. Then watch the local TV stations for updates, especially on days of heavy traffic (e.g., Mass Ascension, Special Shape Rodeo, last day of fiesta, etc.). Also, check the map for where to park if you have special needs. If you qualify, you can get mighty close to the launch field just by finding the right parking spot.
- Check out other things to do. Although we attended four sessions as General Admission folks, we found lots more categories and events on the website that we’ll look into if we return. You may want to volunteer to help a crew, ride in a chase car, buy VIP tickets that offer food service while you view, or enter a competition such as the one featuring photos of various events.
- Attend more than one session. With so many featured sessions — like Balloon
Glow, Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension, etc., you’ll want to see several while you’re in the area. Not only that, inclement weather may shut down a launch, and you’ll be hoping you could be there for another shot at a successful lift-off.
- Be camera-ready. First, be sure your camera batteries are charged and ready. Second, bring more than one lens — you’ll want some all-encompassing shots of the mass ascensions but some close-up details, too. For photo tips, be sure to check out the ones offered by Ken Slute on the website. His posts cover camera settings, cropping advice, composition, and more.
- And our best advice — go early! We can’t say this enough. On our first morning, we left the hotel at 4:15 AM with time to spare when we arrived at the field. But on the second morning, feeling secure with our route and knowledge of where to park, etc., we waited until 4:30. Big mistake. The last day of Balloon Fiesta is packed, and we missed Dawn Patrol while sitting in long, long lines of traffic. So, be forewarned. Leave early.
We hope these tips will help you maximize your enjoyment at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta, but even if you don’t heed them all, we’re sure you’ll be simply amazed with the event anyway. So, with that said, our best advice is HAVE FUN. Move around. See all you can. And take that obligatory balloon-coming-out-of-your-head shot. Silliness is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Because we dare you to find anyone at Balloon Fiesta who isn’t smiling!
Best wishes for a great experience at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!
Bert and Rusha
For more information:
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015: http://www.balloonfiesta.com
Facebook: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015: https://www.facebook.com/balloonfiesta?fref=ts
Additional posts in the Oh, the Places We See series on Balloon Fiesta: