Taos hosts its 38th micro balloon event - Albuquerque Journal

Taos hosts its 38th micro balloon event

Although slots in the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association are coveted because of the grand scenery, it is capped at 35 balloons. This year’s rally starts Friday and goes through Oct. 31. (Courtesy of Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Most everyone knows about the Big One – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – which dominates the skies for nine days in early October.

But not so many people know about the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, which tends to, um, fly under the radar. It lifts off with a mini ascension Friday morning, followed by tether rides for schoolchildren, and continues through Oct. 31, with a full morning ascension.

A micro ballooning event in that the number of balloons is capped at 35 because of the size of the launch field, the Taos Mountain Rally is still popular because of the sheer magnificence of the flying locale.

“This time of the year, with all the trees changing colors, when you’re flying, you get a view of the Rio Grande Gorge and the surrounding mountains,” said Mike Olsen, president of the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association. “It is spectacular. It is beautiful.”

Coming up on its 38th event, the rally was started by balloonists from Albuquerque who needed a break from the Duke City onslaught, he said.

“It was started by a couple of balloonists from Albuquerque who were overwhelmed by the size of Albuquerque and they wanted something where they could come just have fun,” Olsen said. “They worked with other folks in Taos and set it up to be a pilots’ rally.”

With such a limited group of pilots and such incredible scenery to view, slots are coveted, he said.

“We have pilots from all over,” he said. “There’s a significant percentage from Albuquerque and the local area, but we get them from across the country, also.”

The air currents surrounding Albuquerque creating the famous box is one of the reasons the Balloon Fiesta is so popular, but Taos frequently has similar patterns, Olsen said.

“Currents come off the mountains and, on some mornings, you can take off and come back to the same place,” he said. “We do have limitations with the Taos Pueblo as they control a lot of the land around here and that’s prohibited air space. Pilots have to be very careful about the way they are flying and where they are with the way the winds are blowing.”

And, like the Fiesta, mingling on the flight deck is encouraged, with usually 800 to 1,000 visitors meandering through the field.

“We’re still a little concerned about COVID, so we’re asking everybody to mask up,” Olsen said. “But people can walk right up to the balloons, talk to pilots, volunteer to be on crews. It’s a family event. It’s a great time.”

A few vendors will be part of the festivities, but, again, nowhere near the number at the Albuquerque Fiesta.

“We’ll have a couple of food vendors, coffee vendors, a really nice couple who bring in a lot of kites and whirligigs that are very colorful, shirts and hats,” Olsen said. “We really want people to go in and enjoy the town of Taos, and take advantage of our wonderful shops and artists, and restaurants.”

Ralph and Marcie Sweet have been sponsoring a balloon for every rally and are actually on the second generation with Balloonmeister Phil Campbell. They had previously sponsored Campbell’s father, Calvin Campbell, who was one of the first pilots involved in the rally. He died recently.

The event is something that the Sweets also circle on their calendar, Ralph Sweet said.

“It’s the only thing that I do in my life that has no purpose but to make me laugh,” he said.

Although not a balloon pilot himself, Sweet has had a chance to fly into the Gorge, high above the mountains, and cruise low over ground parties.

“Ballooning is a gorgeous way to see the countryside, no matter where you are,” he said. “The view, it’s always changing no matter how many times you see the same place. Flying overhead, you’re barely moving. We have flown for years over the tops of parties and you can have a conversation with people 50 feet below you. It’s a community event here.”

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


Gonzales plans to stay the course regarding staff
University of New Mexico coach Danny ... University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales remains determined to turn Lobo football into a winnin ...
Bears get jump on Jaguars
Boys' Basketball
LA CUEVA 57, ATRISCO HERITAGE 43 ... LA CUEVA 57, ATRISCO HERITAGE 43 LA CUEVA (1-0): Exodus Ayers 12, Ced Yates 8, Josiah Guliford 14, B ...
Lobos win big, then celebrate
Bradbury's, De La Cerda's milestones recognized ... Bradbury's, De La Cerda's milestones recognized after victory
House, Lobos keep Aggies in the dark
ABQnews Seeker
Jaelen House scored 31 points and ... Jaelen House scored 31 points and the UNM Lobos hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final 1:53 to ice a 101-94 rivalry ...
NM middle school bans flags as capes
ABQnews Seeker
Popular trend barred after student honored ... Popular trend barred after student honored Confederacy on campus
Henry's tree to be lit for the last time ...
ABQnews Seeker
But, even when the lights go ... But, even when the lights go dark, it will always be time to remember Henry Aceves, the man who saved Christmas
Snowboarder killed at Sipapu worked in Presbyterian ER
ABQnews Seeker
28-year-old trying sport for first time ... 28-year-old trying sport for first time apparently hit a tree
Ancient juniper trees cut illegally in New Mexico monument
ABQnews Seeker
Alligator junipers, which have unique bark, ... Alligator junipers, which have unique bark, can live up to 500 years, even in harsh conditions
Trial starts for suspect in uncle's shooting death
ABQnews Seeker
Prosecutor disputes claim of self-defense as ... Prosecutor disputes claim of self-defense as 2020 security video reviewed