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Thread: Balloon Fiesta Time Lapse

  1. #1
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    Balloon Fiesta Time Lapse

    As most of you probably know, Albuquerque is well known for its annual Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon event in the world every year. Until I hurt my back in 2001, I was an active participant in it every year as a crew member or crew chief. (Had I stayed in Albuquerque instead of moving to LA in 1991, I would have become a pilot. I was next in line in our group to get the training.)

    It's ten days of more balloons than you can imagine. This time lapse video captures the essence of what Fiesta is all about.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8YaMK4-MYg
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  2. #2
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    Thank you Vaughn. That was fantastic, I could watch that over and over. Too wonderful for words.
    cheers

  3. #3
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    I'd love togo to that. At the end when the fireworks started, I thought they were shooting them down.

    Thanks for sharing.
    "We the People ......"

  4. #4
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    Seeing so many at once just seems so inspirational. Something about so many people getting together to do something that cool at one time. Love it.
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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  5. #5
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    For the edification of those who are interested, the video captures these main elements of the event:

    The opening scenes are of the "Dawn Patrol". This is a small group of balloons that take off shortly before sunrise each morning (weather permitting). They have to get special permission from the FAA to fly balloons before daylight. The Dawn Patrol serves as a "scout" for the other pilots to see wind directions and speed. (Although there are also a lot of weather balloons also launched pre-dawn to determine if it's safe to fly.)

    Next, there are several scenes from a typical Mass Ascension. These are done on all four weekend days, and there is no competition involved...just flying for fun. Since there are more balloons than can fit on the field at once, they take off in waves. It's an interesting coordination between pilots and the field referees, the Launch Directors. (Known as "Zebras", because they wear black and white striped referee clothing.) There are a few dozen Launch Directors, each assigned to specific sections of the field, and they have to give clearance to each pilot before they can take off. When you've got 800+ balloons taking off, they can't all be at once.The weekend days also have the most spectators, for obvious reasons. (I heard on the radio this morning that this year's event had over 800,000 attendees over the 10-day period.) Having a huge audience watching and cheering you on is part of what makes working on a crew fun.

    Later in the video are some shots from a typical competition. (It's the part where you see lots of balloons flying close to the ground toward the camera.) Most of the competitions involve dropping a bag of bird seed onto a target. Depending on the wind direction, the pilots might take off from the Balloon Fiesta Park and drop onto a target that is offsite, or they will take off from a mile or more away and drop onto targets on the balloon field. (The latter is what the video shows.) The most popular competition among the pilots is the Key Grab, where the keys to a new car or truck are attached to the end of a 30' vertical pole, and the pilot who successfully maneuvers his balloon and grabs the keys wins the car. It's difficult to do, but the pilots are good enough that they give away at least one car pretty much every year. I know in years past the Key Grab was always sponsored by the local Dodge dealer. They would take out an insurance policy to cover the cost of the car in case a pilot happened to get the keys. When it started happening with predictable regularity, it became less expensive for the dealership to just eat the cost of the car instead of pay for the insurance premium. There have also been Key Drop events, where the pilots had to drop a key into a mocked-up chimney on the field. Then after the competition, the pilots who had successfully hit the target were entered in a drawing, and the winner of that would win a house. Those were also pretty hotly-contested events.

    Toward the end of the video is a Balloon Glow event, where the balloons inflate in the early evening and stay tethered to the ground. In the case of this video, it's just the special shape balloons participating (known as the Special Shapes Glowdeo). Balloon Glows are a challenge for the crews because there are often afternoon winds that make it tricky to keep a balloon under control on the ground. I've spent many an afternoon and evening getting dragged around by the crown line (the rope attached to the top of the balloon) as I tried to keep the balloon from tipping over onto the crowd. (I've done all the various crew duties, but usually ended up on the crown line, since it's a job that requires a certain touch, and the pilots seemed to like mine.) It's especially challenging with the special shape balloons, which are generally not as aerodynamic as a typical balloon. (Picture a 7-story tall tennis shoe that's 2/3 of a football field in length.)

    The fireworks at the very end of the video are typical weekend fare, after either a concert or a Balloon Glow.

    Although I don't have any digital pics of most of the balloons I worked with, here are some I found on the web.

    The Famous Footwear Tennis Shoe:



    The Bald Eagle. This guy was 11 stories tall and needed dual crown lines to control it on the ground:



    And one of my favorites, the Polar Bear:



    And at the risk of repeating pics I've posted before, here are some shots of the Bear at an event in Switzerland, taken by my sister about 10 years or so ago:

    A bear glow...



    The sleeping Bear...



    Flying by a stereotypical Swiss church...



    And a view of the same church from the balloon (taken by my Brother-In-Law)...



    As you can probably tell, I'm kind of a balloon nut. Thanks for indulging me.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  6. #6
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    Indulge away, I love them.
    "We the People ......"

  7. #7
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    Just plain epic.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

  8. #8
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    That's truly awe inspiring. I would love to be there next year
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  9. #9
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    Fantastic video and pictures Vaughn. I had heard of the Albuquerqe festival, but I had no idea how many balloons there were.
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. #10
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    That was wonderful Vaughn, thanks for allowing us to indulge you. I've always been fascinated by hot air balloons and they are fairly common in our area. We usually see them in the spring & fall mornings when the temperatures are low. You can hear the whooshing burner adjustments (on/off, on/off) from quite a ways off & recognize what's going on as they approach one's home. My personal high point was 10-15 years ago when a HAB landed on my front lawn. I took some nice pictures, celebrated the successful landing when the pilot broke out the Champaign, then gave me the cork (I still have it & am looking at it now on my desk) and then helped load the balloon into the chase car. That was a fun day!
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