For the longest time I have wanted to go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The pictures of past years show it is a magical event. Bright balloons fill the clear blue sky, the sun glowing off animal shaped figures, and an evening field filled with smiling balloonist. I dreamed to be able to attend this fiesta and experience all of the excitement for myself! Lucky me, it was my boyfriend’s birthday which called for a road trip somewhere and what better place than driving to Albuquerque, New Mexico!
“There’s something for everyone to enjoy..whimsical special shapes filled with equal parts of hot air and wonder, and balloon glows that create a magical night land-scape for guests to wander.”
– Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Website
For the past 43 years the Albuquerque morning and evening sky is lit with balloons for nine days straight. We attended day eight of the event which was the Saturday before it all wrapped up. By going at the end of the week we hoped the crowds would not be as huge, but boy were we wrong! Staff had guessed that there were roughly around 500,000 people attending each session every day. With that many people at an event the odds are very high that a person with disabilities with either not be able to go to the event due to the amount of people or will have symptoms triggered because of the environment.
Do to my surprise, this event could not have been any more well designed for people with disabilities. I was extremely impressed at how accessible the board made this festival for people all different special needs. The workers were all very kind and willing to help do whatever they could so I could have the easiest time. Without their focus on accessibility, I would simply have not been able to cross this event off of my bucket list. There is no way I could have walked a mile from the parking lot to the front gate without their handicap parking lot being so close to the entrance and them having a golf cart driving people to and from. There is no way I could have enjoyed shopping at all the booths that ran a mile long without the wheel chair I was able to rent (because of course I forgot to bring my own). There is no way I could have stood in line for an hour to use the restroom without their being a handicapped porta potty available. The organizers of this festival made it possible for people like myself to attend this magical event and I thank them immensely.
One of the beautiful things of New Mexico is their strong Native American culture. When we stumbled upon several men and women performing a few of their ritual dances the air around them was calm and focused. Watching their movements and listening to their chants evoked a powerful pull to the earth. Their dress was full of details steaming all from Mother Earth. It was a wonderful reminder that we must give her our utmost respect and worship her. Without the soil, water, plants, and air we would not be here.
Slowly baskets began to line up in rows covering the grassy field. People leisurely made their way to the lawn with eyes big and wide with amazement at seeing a hot air balloon up close. We grabbed a seat in the middle of all of the excitement with a front row view at a beautiful red and white balloon. Soon all of the baskets were up right and at the same time they would all light their fire and the horizon would glow with all beautiful colors. The crowd would roar at the same time with excitement as the dark sky illuminated in bright rainbow colors.
Sitting on the lawn gazing up at the balloons took me back to a memory I have when I was around 17 and had the opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon. It was very nerve racking being in a basket squished with 6 other people with a flame above your head, floating in mid air. You are so high in the sky with zero physical security, but man was it a rush! I am grateful I had the chance to create that memory then, because my current physical state would not allow me to fly free like that. It is just a reminder to myself to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way because one day, if faced with it again, I may not be able to enjoy creating that memory.