Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Dry Run

In preparation for our fabulous trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta next month, we decided to do a "dry run" to test out lighting for the nighttime balloon glow. Once again, Blake came thru for us! He found that Colorado Springs, which is about 60 miles south of the Denver area, holds an annual balloon festival over Labor Day weekend. So, once again, we packed up the camera and headed out. I swear Pearl cursed us under her breath as we left.

When we arrived and walked into the park, Sony was there with their huge Playstation rig. Of course, we had to go check it out and wouldn't you know it? They had the Move all set up just for you-know-who. I guess I have no excuses now. Blake, just act surprised on Christmas morning; that's all I'm saying.

Before long, the balloon crews started to arrive and unpack. Some crews had trailers, which had mini cranes to unload the gondola and envelope!

Oh. Wait.

What was that? What the heck's an envelope, you say? Hold on.

The pretty, colored part is called the envelope. The basket, or gondola, is where the people go. There's way more to it than that, but for now that's all that you need to know.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Before the balloon is unpacked, the crew has to put a tarp down to protect the nylon from dirt, rocks, sticks and other things that might ruin it. This is a lovely, patriotic example.

Next, the propane tanks are attached to the gondola and are tested.

Then, we wait till dark.

It's a long wait.

You people-watch, then take pictures of your husband, the mountains, clouds, cute little kids running around, and the random Volkswagen Bug car show.

Then, when it's almost too dark to see the person in front of you, the real action begins! the envelopes unfurl, the fans to blow them up are brought out, and the crew starts pulling on ropes! Action is everywhere! Those who sat too close to the tarps are asked to move, and those who take their time are barked at by the pilots and rope-holders.

And, finally, before we know it, we're in business!

The gondolas are hooked up when the balloon gets high enough and the pilot fills the envelope with hot air. Hence, the glow!!

Some of my pics might be blurry... when one takes night pictures with little to no light for exposure one normally has a tripod with them. I did not have a tripod, thus my pictures look a bit fuzzy. Just think of them as action shots instead of the result of poor planning!

It was a magical night. At first I just held on to Blake's arm, mesmerized. I completely forgot I had a camera!

Corporate sponsorship!

Kissing balloons!

The announcers/emcees told us about the balloons, conducted countdowns, from 1 to 10, from 10 to 1, in Spanish, in Japanese, maybe in French too. There are only so many ways to count for 2 hours and keep it interesting!! And it was so warm on the field, with all the burners going off. I think we were both sweating it towards the end. We stayed until the balloons started coming down and crews started packing up.

We had decided to go back down in the morning, so at 6 am we dragged our tired butts out of bed, threw on some clothes, ignored Pearl's bleary-eyed glare and hit the road again; stopping, of course, at Starbucks. We arrived at the park in the Springs at 7 am, only to find out that they had deemed the cool, dawn air to be too breezy to lift off. So we decided that instead of turning around and going home, we'd tour the glorious Garden of the Gods in the early light. We took some mighty pretty photos!

Kissing Camels.

Buffalo Rock. Not sure that's the official name, but I like naming things.

Craggy, red, rocky beauty.

The Balancing Rock.

By then, the coffee was making it's way through our systems, so we decided to call it a morning. We found a breakfast place in Manitou Springs, relaxed, reflected on our morning, then headed back home. And our heads hit our pillows. And most of all, Pearl was happy!


  1. Wow, those balloon pix are just beautiful! I assume that they don't take off at night, but re-inflate them in the morning and then take off?? COOL!

  2. Hi Mom! I heard they can fly at night but the FAA requires them to be outfitted with blinking lights, just like planes do. But I guess normally they stay grounded. Here, this is all just for show. They are neat pics, huh! Just wait till I show you Albuquerque pics! :-)