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Special Shape Rodeo proves to be a popular hit with visitors

A chase crew prepares to grab a hot-air balloon gondola as it lands near the North Diversion Channel and Paseo del Norte on Friday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
A chase crew prepares to grab a hot-air balloon gondola as it lands near the North Diversion Channel and Paseo del Norte on Friday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
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A calm, clear morning unleashed the Special Shape Rodeo on Friday, a day after a storm front forced the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to tether the world’s most spectacular balloons.

Visitors clapped and cheered early Friday as new entries such as “Angry Bird,” and Brazilian creations “Hummingbird” and “Little Wizard” ascended with perennial favorites like “Scarecrow” and three “Little Bees.”

Spectators were treated to an unusual density of balloons when nearly windless conditions kept about 100 balloons clustered over Balloon Fiesta Park.

“It’s one of those things you have to see,” Heidi Lingane of Chicago said about her first visit to the fiesta. “It makes you laugh. It’s absolutely marvelous.”

Though a U.S.-made balloon, “Angry Bird” is owned by Indian entrepreneur Benedict Savio, founder of the media company Global Media Box, which uses balloons to advertise companies like Emirates airline and Dubai Land.

Savio said his wife, a fan of the Angry Birds video game, thought of the idea of creating a balloon based on the game to promote their company.

“This is a marketing tool,” he said. “This is kind of an advertisement for us to develop our company.”

Funds for injured man

A relief account has been set up for Danny Lovato, who was severely injured Wednesday when a hot-air balloon in which he was riding brushed power lines in Rio Rancho, causing a small explosion.

Donations to the Daniel Lovato Donation Fund can be made by mail or in person at any US Bank branch, according to a press release issued Friday by University of New Mexico School of Law employees, who set up the fund.

Lovato, 66, faces additional surgeries for burns to his chest, face and arms, the release said. The injury required the amputation of his left arm, it said.

Winning team lands

The last team flying in the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race touched down near White River, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday after a 1,454-mile flight.

The team of Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke are the unofficial winners of the race that started Sunday from Balloon Fiesta Park.

The team was aloft for 60 hours and 19 minutes, according to the fiesta’s website.

Leftover food donated

Thanks to the efforts of a city employee, all those breakfast burritos left unsold when bad weather shuts down the balloon fiesta are donated to organizations that feed the hungry, Mayor Richard Berry said Friday.

Theresa Alling, a supervisor with the city’s Environmental Health department, worked with balloon fiesta officials and local business owners last year to arrange to have unused food donated to Roadrunner Food Bank, Noonday Ministries and other groups, Berry’s office said.

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