It's THAT time of year again - the opening day of the Balloon Fiesta. At 7:00 this a.m. the 650 balloons registered for this year began lifting off for what is known as the "Mass Ascension." The conditions were perfect - no wind at all - although there were a few clouds, as you'll see in the pictures. The forecast says a front is moving in this evening, though, which might cause problems for tomorrow's festivities. But the Fiesta is eight days long, so hopefully the rest of the week will be good.
This year we decided to sleep an extra hour, which meant we'd miss the Dawn Patrol, the dozen or so balloons that go up when it is still dark, to test the conditions and to put on a glow-show. We actually did see them, though, from a distance as we were waiting in line for the park 'n' ride bus.
Here are a few pictures from our morning at the park.
When we first arrived at the park, we stood in line to get some coffee and cinnamon rolls. But I was watching over my shoulder, as the Creamland Dairy balloon, Airabelle The Flying Cow, was inflating.
Here's Airabelle in the air.
This year I was determined to watch Darth Vader during his inflation and launch. Last year I missed it.
There were storm troopers and other Star Wars characters at Darth's launch site.
It wasn't hard finding Nemo!
I don't remember seeing the Strawberry balloon before. Maybe this is it's first year here.
The Wells Fargo stagecoach balloon is always a favorite. It's very large and hard to get into the air, so the conditions have to be very good, as they were today!
This is the first time I've seen this balloon, as well. It's called The Flying Cathedral, and is an amazing thing to see.
Looking at the Cathedral from the under-side.
An upside down pyramid.
This one makes me smile.
The ladybug wouldn't turn my direction, but even from this angle I could tell she was very cute.
This is one of the two bees, lying on its back, waiting to be fully inflated and launched.
Did you wonder who was holding the line you saw in the picture above? The balloon crews work hard.
The bees are some of my favorites. They inflate and ascend holding hands! After awhile, they separate and, if things work out well, the pilots maneuver them to kiss. The crowd always goes crazy when they manage a kiss.
This is REALLY a poor video, but it might give you an idea of how excited the crowd gets whenever a balloon launches.
Here's a balloon just being laid out.