Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The kids at Seven Bar Elementary School on the West Side got a double dose of cool early Friday as two hot air balloons inflated in the school’s courtyard as part of Albuquerque Aloft.
The program, which began in 2005, has pilots inflating, and sometimes launching their balloons, from elementary schools around Albuquerque, while sharing the joy of ballooning and answering questions about the science behind it.
The kids, in kindergarten through fifth grade, excitedly shrieked each time the propane burners roared to life in what seemed like a playful musical call and response.
Fourth grader Logan Boucher, 9, was one of the lucky kids who got to hold the crown line as the Heaven Bound, Too balloon was being inflated. “I thought I was going to be lifted up so I had to use some of the strength in my legs,” he said.
Logan, who said he has never been to the Balloon Fiesta, also said he has never been as close to a hot air balloon. “They’re really, really big,” he said. “I don’t know how tall, but really, really big.”
Fellow fourth grader Trinity Turchich, 9, also had a turn holding the crown line. “It was really cool. It was shaking up and down and it felt like a wave,” she said. “I’ve been to the Balloon Fiesta before, but I never saw balloons at school. It’s really exciting.”
According to Seven Bar Principal Roberta Montoya, this was the first time in her six years as principal that Albuquerque Aloft has visited the school, and she was just as excited about it as the school’s 500 students.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. What a neat experience for the kids and a great learning experience for them,” she said. “They’ve been talking about ballooning in their classrooms and doing some projects and learning about the science behind it.”
Those lessons were not lost on 7-year-old seventh-grader Joseph Esquibel. “Fire and wind,” he said confidently. “The fire heats the wind in the balloon and it goes up and makes the balloon fly and turn into a butterfly. When it’s spread on the ground, it’s a caterpillar.”
Allan Hahn, the Aurora, Colorado-based pilot of Heaven Bound, Too, said he has been flying for 22 years and has participated in Albuquerque Aloft since the program began.
“I love being able to come out and help bring some excitement and some education to the kids,” he said. “I love to challenge them about what the realm of possible is in their lives and let them know that they’re capable of doing this.”
Flying JAWs, so named for his initials, Albuquerque pilot John Albert Wilson has attended Balloon Fiesta every year since he was a child, and has participated in Albuquerque Aloft twice. “I do it because the kids really enjoy it and for me that’s a big deal,” he said. “I want to make sure the community gets a good taste and a good feel about ballooning, and it gives me a chance to educate people and show them what we do. And it just put smiles on people’s faces.”
Wilson said he is particularly pleased when the older kids ask him how-to questions about flying. “You get to describe the physics and the science involved.”
The younger kids, he said, mostly “just think it’s cool.”