When I arrived at the airport on my return trip from San Diego, David and Paul met me at the curb and whisked me away about 80 miles north to Mesquite, Nevada, venue for the 8th Annual Mesquite Balloon Festival 2019.
The schedule of events included a champagne tasting, candlesticks, a night glow, a live band with dancing and an early morning launch...all free events. (See below for translation of ‘balloon-speak’ terminology.) We stayed at a local hotel so we could participate in all the events and arrived on Saturday about 4pm. Unfortunately, we missed out on the champagne. Hard to believe, but it was all gone by the time we got in line. No worries...mimosas were only $3/each.
We were most interested in the balloon events and stood outside in the chilly early evening in the Casa Blanca Resort parking lot area to watch the night glow and candlestick demonstrations. A DJ played music and the crowd was in good spirits. The night glow involves inflating a grounded balloon and firing the burners so the balloon ‘glows’ in the dark, its bright colors illuminating the night. It was a bit windy and not the ideal conditions for inflating the balloons, but one daring pilot managed to provide us spectators with a great show.
During the candlestick event, the pilots fire their burners without the balloons, the flames extending high, piercing the night. There was a coordinated effort by a DJ to get all the pilots to ignite at the same time. ‘Three, two, one, BURN’, he shouted. The noise was somewhat deafening, but the effect was awesome.
Being the old codgers that we are, we opted to forego the dance band (with significant resistance and whining on my part, I might add) and head off to dinner and then to a hotel for the night. We were up before dawn the next morning, bundled up and out the door, heading to the launch site. The place was all a-bustle...balloons, baskets and gear being unloaded. Volunteers, pilots and crew all concentrating on making ready for the big launch.
The weather was clear and calm, a beautiful day for launching hot-air balloons. We heard the first of many burners fire up and the balloons began to inflate. As each balloon transformed from a flat piece of fabric on the ground to full inflation, it seemed they became animated and almost lifelike, bobbing around, tipping their baskets to an upright position and raring to go. Go ahead and click on the thumbnails above to enlarge them.
Then one balloon lifted off, and another and another. It was exhilarating to watch. Spectators cheered as each balloon and crew-filled basket slowly rose from the ground into the morning sky. Some hovered gently above us, catching an air current and heading off. Others were less deliberate in their get-away, rising haltingly, but finally aloft, anxious to join the others.
They floated up and down, sometimes quite high, other times seemingly not far off the ground. We watch as all the bright colors mingled in the sky till the last one launched. We counted more than 30.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have taken two hot air balloon rides in our lives: One over the vineyards in Napa Valley on our honeymoon and another as a gift from our friends and co-workers in Wisconsin. Both were exhilarating, just a tiny bit scary and thoroughly delightful. Watching these balloons made us yearn for another opportunity to watch and perhaps even ride. Maybe the Albuquerque Balloon Fest in October?