— Le Figaro, 1908.
When I was about 18 I went to the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. It was amazing, I don't have words to describe the experience, but it was wonderful. Watching those gentle giants ascend in the early morning is truly a cherished memory.
The moment I heard we were going to have a local balloon festival I knew we were going. And we were going to be there to watch the balloon ascension.
I told the younger kids and was met with enthusiasm. I told my oldest, adding that we'd be leaving the house by 6:30 am, and she responded, "Why do I have to be in a home schooling family?" and then, without missing a beat, said, "Yes".
Saturday morning we headed out to the Balloons Over Paradise festival in Immokalee, FL.
Immokalee is a small town with few roads going in and out and festival traffic and parking was a challenge, at best, and very, very slow going ... we wondered if we'd arrive at the event before sunset. However, when we were just about to the festival site we saw them. The balloons. Big, beautiful, ready to launch. Of course, while that provided a bit of eye candy it also fueled our desire to park and get on over there.
Eventually we parked. And walked a long way to a shuttle bus, with a long line waiting to board. And then it happened ... "The balloons aren't going up today. They're taking them down right now". Sure enough, we could see them starting to deflate. Oh well, we'd paid our parking fee and done our time getting to that parking place ... we were going to see the balloons up close.
And we did. We were able to see many of them with the balloons still inflated, shooting heat into them to keep them blown up. It was great fun watching the crews keep the balloons and baskets on the ground, they had a tendency to hop and lean.
We watched them deflate, which is pretty neat in itself. These balloons are huge, yet they gracefully fall to the ground, reminding me of the parachute's we used to play with in elementary school.
We met the most wonderful crew from Balloons and Beyond. I asked silly questions, they gave intelligent answers. They insisted on putting us all in the basket for photos. Seriously? Love. Adam got to pull the lever to fire the heat into the balloon, repeatedly. So cool. And they're going to send us educational material (did you know you need a pilots license to operate a hot air balloon?).
A reporter from the local paper managed to take a dreadful picture of all of us and put it in the Sunday paper.
After taking too much of the balloon crew's time we headed back to the car, getting sidetracked on the way by the funniest little playground at the Immokalee Regional Raceway, where we all laughed hysterically (after all, it wasn't even 8:30 am yet) for far too long. Noted: There are no photos of the playground equipment on the raceway website. Wise move.
Next year? Can't wait.