ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Winds and dropping temperatures couldn’t stifle the excitement at Balloon Fiesta Park on Kid’s Day.
Early morning upper-level winds grounded Thursday’s Special Shape Rodeo and sustained high winds caused officials to cancel the evening Special Shapes Glowdeo.
Although winds above Balloon Fiesta Park were too strong for flight, Balloon Fiesta officials decided conditions near the ground Thursday morning were safe enough for crews to inflate without lifting off.
After Dawn Patrol pilots inflated around 6 a.m. and then promptly brought down and packed up their balloons, a safety officer at a morning pilot briefing announced the special shapes would inflate but not launch.
Hundreds of balloons were filled with cold and warm air and remained tethered to the ground allowing those attending this year’s Kid’s Day to see their favorite balloon characters up close and standing tall.
“It’s a bummer that they didn’t get to launch, but honestly it’s just great to wander around and see them inflate and see the different shapes,” Chris Buckholz said.
He and his wife, Kimran Buckholz, were wandering around the south end of the field with their son Cody near a giant dog balloon that was teetering about, occasionally dipping a paw or two onto the wet grass.
“We like the dog because the paw kept falling on our heads, and the kids were touching the paw,” Buckholz said.
The couple has only missed one Balloon Fiesta since they started going in 2013 and said this year they came just for the special shapes. Their favorites include the chile ristra balloon, which made a special appearance this year, Darth Vader and Yoda, and Albert Einstein.
“It’s the best thing of the entire year,” Kimran Buckholz said.
The park was full of families staring up at the larger than life cartoonish shapes dotting the field and bobbing about.
Young kids sat atop their parents’ shoulders and shouted directions. “Daddy go to the Smurf,” one little boy yelled, pointing over his dad’s head and across the field.
Mickela and Diego Hurtado regularly attended Balloon Fiesta about 20 years ago, and after moving back to New Mexico they brought their three kids for the first time.
“It was honestly kind of cool to let the kids just see them, just there, since they haven’t been before,” Mickela Hurtado said.
The family planned to wander around the park, get some grub and look for ornaments.
“That’s kind of our thing,” Diego Hurtado said.
A few new special shapes garnered extra attention this year, including a bright pink unicorn head called Allycorn. Kids swarmed the new balloon’s gondola as they looked for balloon cards handed out by the pilots and crew. One girl yelled to her friend, who was sporting a bright pink jacket and purple boots, ‘You should tell them your name is Ally, too!'”
Thursday’s competition flying was also canceled.
Fiesta officials said winds were expected to die down overnight, and hoped for a cool, crisp, clear sky ahead of Friday’s Special Shape Rodeo.