I stumbled in the darkness, couldn’t really see where I was going. Lights seemed far away from where I was standing; dark figures were roaming around on the field, preparing for Balloon Fiesta, at dawn.
Lilo and our friend, who were with us for a small road trip, were standing together couples of feet away from me. I could tell they were not strangers because they were using their iPhone’s flashlight to communicate with each other in American Sign Language.
I felt a strange sensation behind me in the dark. I looked to my right, oh! A woman was standing there, pointing at something. I couldn’t read the woman’s lips in the dark. I looked at where she was pointing at, and something huge was lay out on the ground: a balloon that was waiting to be inflate. She was gesturing me like“please be careful and not to step on it” as she pointed at my shoes and traced the balloon around. I nodded and watched the woman walking back to the truck to help her team unload the basket.
Several balloons began inflating slowly. Fires roared into the balloon as different teams attempted to get their balloon lifted up in the air. Fires looked like fireflies, flickering throughout the dark field – something that I’m hoping to see field of real fireflies at least once in my life.
Eventually, the east horizon slowly became brighter and brighter. With teamwork, the whole process took about an hour to 2 hours before launching them into the air.
I didn’t actually think it would be very difficult and long to get the balloon inflated. Okay, well, I mean, of course, the balloon is ridiculously huge; Just that I became more aware of it as I personally see it for myself, how much work they put into! When they successfully inflated the balloon, the crowd clapped and cheered; a couple or family excitedly got into the basket, waiting to touch the sky. I’ve never went on the hot air balloon yet, and I decided not to join that time due to finance but certainly next time!
While I was distracted with the process of how they were inflating the balloons, I didn’t realized 857348023948 people came onto the field! Okay, it can’t be that many, but really, I was squishing myself throughout the field to watch other inflating balloons.
here is the reality:
The crowd was insane, and I bet all the chatters were extremely loud! I know I wouldn’t able to tolerate it if I use my hearing aids; everything was silent! One of the best perks we Deafs have when we don’t need to tolerate loud environment.
“If you get lost,” I told Lilo and our friend.
“Meet me in the front of the Canon booth, okay?”
This is something I always do while traveling with others, especially if we are new to certain places or just in case if one of our phones decided to die on us (at such a good timing).
As the sun rode higher from the horizon, several characters began soaring into the sky one by one. There were Yoda, Darth Vader, Sonic, the cute penguin couple, pirate ship and more.
Before the couple penguin took off, they successfully made these penguins kiss before flying. The audience went “awww!”
They showed off their vibrant colors in the vast of blue sky; they looked like a piece of painting canvas. Oh, how great it would be if I have a painting canvas of that moment! The experience felt surreal,
like it was just a dream.
Since we personally experienced this international fiesta,
here are some tips and things that you should know before visiting the Fiesta:
Visit during the weekdays
If you want to avoid huge crowd and have people breathing down on your neck, I recommend visiting during the weekdays if you can; it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a lot better but certainly less crowded comparing to the weekends (since the event takes place during October!). Otherwise, do expect that the crowd might drive you insane; Unless you have won achievement awards for battling through your way at Comic Con, subway rush hours, etc.
Know what you would like to see
Sometimes there are particular days where they have certain activities. Make sure you research what you would like to see! Do you want to see the dawn patrol? Night Magic glow? America’s Challenge? Flight of the Nation? Find out what these are through here: FAQ.
This. I cannot emphasize this enough. Arrive early! I strongly advise you to arrive at least 2 hours or earlier to avoid monstrous traffic, whether if your session is in the morning or afternoon. There is a potential that you may be stuck in traffic more than an hour or so, depending the time and day.
Although it isn’t fun to be stuck in traffic, carpooling with others will save more money if everyone splits the cost for parking fee: Parking (including handicap parking spots) cost $15 per car. It may also save some time for people (except maybe for the poor driver!).
However, other than driving there, you have alternative options: Uber or park & ride.
If you purchase park & ride, the admission for Balloon will be included! You wouldn’t need to worry about the traffic condition, including at the remote parking lot. Even maybe grab a nap in the bus if you didn’t sleep well! Make sure that you arrive early for Park & Ride though! At least an hour before the time for last bus to ensure you’ll arrive on time for Dawn Patrol, first wave of balloons, etc.
Due to limited space in the bus, they will not allow wagons (which are available for rent near information booth) but advise to consider the size of extras that you may bring: backpacks, umbrellas, chairs, strollers, etc.) You must have the ticket before boarding the bus!
FREE children (age 5 & under), $7 children (age 6-12), $15 adults (13-61), $12 for seniors (62+).
Purchasing at the Fiesta costs more! Depending on the age, some charges $3 – $8 extra when purchasing at the site.
Park and Ride locations, click here. For morning sessions, bus service starts at 4:30AM. Last bus (from remote lots to Fiesta) leaves is at 7:00 AM. For afternoon sessions, bus service starts at 3:30PM. Last bus leaves remote lots to Balloon Fiesta Park at 6:30 pm. For more information about bus rides, click here.
Ask your hotels if they provide shuttle to this event! You’ll never know!
What to bring and wear
If you want to save money, bring your own food and drink! Food vendors can be pricey!
Bring lawn chairs and/or blankets to laid down on the grass when not crowded. There aren’t a lot of benches available to sit and eat, especially with crazy amount of people.
Do bring tissues!! Just in case you need to go to the restrooms in a Porta Potty or if the tissues ran out at the restrooms. I mean, when you have to go, you have to go. Anyone have a small bladder like me? Yes, Yes?
Wear closed and comfortable shoes! There are some dirt areas, and you’ll perhaps get stepped on when walking through the crowd too; I have a friend who have a bad luck getting her feet stepped on several times, crowded or not. Poor soul.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really took several pictures, especially a landscape photo when several balloons soared into the sky. Here is a tip that I’d recommend, make sure that you find the time and spot to take landscape photo of the hot air balloons! Don’t forget to also try a different position: be a little far away to do this too!
Oh! They also have Canon booth! You can actually borrow their cameras for allotted time; All you have to do is provide your ID information and return it back at certain time they tell you. My friend’s camera wasn’t working at the time, so this is a huge plus! I believe you’ll need to bring your own memory card for this, so try this one out.
For more photography tips from Balloon Fiesta website, check here.
In case you may lose your loved ones, make sure to tell them where to meet exactly prior joining the crowd on the field. Trust me on this. Although texting and calling are possible, it can be confusing and frustrating to find a certain place to meet up, especially when not being familiar with the area.
Check out the weather on the day you’ll go, make sure to bring appropriate clothing, especially for early mornings! Furthermore, depending on the weather (such as rain), do consider whether you should visit a day, two days or so!
Reserve a place early! Since this is widely popular event, local hotels and other accommodation may be booked fast! My friends and I didn’t stay at any local accommodation since we drove straight from California. Make sure to check out local places via their website or Airbnb.
Overwhelmed by their website?
Make sure you call and ask! Their website is very informative! However, if you feel overwhelmed and have more questions, call! 🙂 They were very helpful with answering my questions when I called.
Local: (505) 821-1000
Those are all the tips that we advise you to take it into consideration! 🙂 This year, I found out that the balloon themes will be desert kaleidoscope! The fiesta will host on October 1 – 9, and the sessions occur at different time, morning and evening. Check out their website for more information!
Maybe we will see you there! 😉
Share your hot air balloon experience or where would you like to see it? 🙂