Recent Aire III is promoted in Albuquerque | information
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a magical experience full of color and fun. For nine days each October, hundreds of hot air balloons from around the country and the world descend into Albuquerque to fly in the “Box of Wind”.
That year three balloons came from Nebraska, including one from Norfolk.
“My wife Robin and I had our first balloon ride in 1987 and have been thrilled ever since,” said Norfolk’s Gordon Emry.
This experience led the Emrys to buy their own balloon.
Emry has been attending the Albuquerque event every year since 1995. But he waited until 1999 to join the fiesta.
In the early morning light on a large open grass field, the sound of fans and propane gas burners fills the air as the colorful nylon giants slowly come to life.
“It’s a big deal to fly at the Fiesta,” said Emry. “It is the most congested airspace in the world.”
Fiesta umpires stroll around the grounds in black and white striped outfits as they monitor the balloonists and instruct them to ascend. This is of course not an easy task when balloons are floating in the sky as far as the eye can see.
At a signal from the referee, the big balloons rise into the blue sky and laughing passengers wave goodbye from their wicker baskets.
Flying is only part of the experience. Landing is another matter, especially in a crowded city.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find a place to land in the Albuquerque area,” Emry said. “Open lots are disappearing. Combined with power cables and towers, that’s tricky.”
The event also includes games where pilots can win prizes by hitting the ground with beanbags falling from their balloons. Another game is to grab an envelope on a pole that contains a key for a new car.
Emry’s current balloon, called the Fresh Aire III, is classified as experimental. He made it with the help of a friend from a different material that’s lighter than regular ripstop nylon.
“Lighter material means less weight and you can fly longer,” said Emry.
Emry said he loves to fly. “It’s something very few people can do. It’s also a great thrill to take people for their once-in-a-lifetime ride.”
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a social event that brings together people from around the world with a common interest.
“I only see some of these people at the fiesta once a year,” said Emry.
But that once a year is a special meeting, because hundreds of hot air balloons fill the sky with all imaginable shapes and colors.