Great View From Tonight's Office

Vaughn McMillan

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Had a great view during the gig tonight. Our band has been playing this yearly corporate event for a technology/IT company for the past 11 or 12 years. (Since before I joined the band.) It's a customer appreciation party at a hospitality tent at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and it's held every year on the first evening of the 9-day Fiesta, during the evening balloon glow. (For those unfamiliar with a balloon glow, the balloons stay tethered, and use their burners to light up the nylon envelopes.) The yearly Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta typically has 500-600 hot air balloons in attendance, although the balloon glows typically only have a couple hundred balloons participating. The corporate hospitality tents are at the south end of the field, so we can only see a fraction of the balloons from our vantage point. (The field itself is 47 acres, and it's packed with wall to wall balloons.) One thing that makes the Albuquerque event somewhat unique (aside from being the biggest in the world) is that the crowd is allowed to walk among the balloons and mingle with the crews.

We start playing before sunset, and as the sun goes down the balloons are unpacked and inflated. After dark, they start to fire their burners in sync, with a local AM radio station broadcasting the burn/no burn commands. By about about 9:00 PM, the balloons are all packed up and the fireworks start. (Started by skydivers flying onto the field wearing LED suits with fireworks trailing behind them.) We play through it all, and do the last song after the end of the fireworks show. It's the only gig we play every year where the audience is often looking away from us, and we done't mind a bit, since we're watching the balloons and fireworks the same as they are. We're a pretty basic electric/acoustic classic rock cover band made up of retired pros just playing out a couple of times per month for grins and a few bucks. Gigs like this one make it worthwhile.

Balloon Pano Shot at ABBA Balloon Event 2019.jp[g.jpg Balloon Glow at ABBA Balloon Event 2019.jp[g.jpg DGP at ABBA Balloon Event 2019.jpg
 

Don Baer

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They are truly amazing to see at night when they light em off. I was at the Lake Havasu City one a few year back and although not quite as big it is still a really big balloon fest. They hold it in Jan. and all the balloons are on the Island. Those shaped one and the corporate balloons are really spectacular. The one from Wells Fargo Bank being one of the notable ones.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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...Those shaped one and the corporate balloons are really spectacular. The one from Wells Fargo Bank being one of the notable ones.

Yeah, the special shapes are some of my favorites. :thumb: I've crewed on several of them (and flown in a few, too). The Wells Fargo stagecoach is HUGE. They seldom actually fly it here in ABQ (it's hard to handle unless the conditions are perfect), but they inflate and tether it as often as they can. The guys who get paid to travel with the corporate balloons are usually paid per inflation, not per flight. One year at the Fiesta I was a paid crew chief on one of the special shapes (the Famous Footwear tennis shoe), and even if it was too breezy to fly, we inflated it for every morning and afternoon event possible. The only times we didn't do it was when it was too windy to safely tether it, or if it was raining.
 
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