Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Under some precarious cloud cover, thousands of visitors lined up early for day two of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Sunday.
Though the wind delayed the fun for a bit, the sky eventually filled with hundreds of colorful creations.
For Himanshu Jasuja and his 4-year-old son, Hansh, this year’s Balloon Fiesta was a first.
The duo spent the morning basking in the atmosphere.
“We just moved here from Minnesota for a job and this is wonderful,” Jasuja said. “We are pretty excited and thankful that it is starting now because we were worried that the rain or the clouds might not have the balloons go up, but this is really fun.”
Hansh was so excited, he was ready at 4 a.m.
“He woke up early, because last night we promised him that we will be going to see the balloons in the morning,” Jasuja said. “So at 4:30 a.m., he woke up himself and I just told him it’s time to go, get up, and he was really excited.”
A lifestyle of ballooning
While some introduced balloons to their families, for some clans, ballooning is a part of life.
“My family has been ballooning since before I was born, so I have just been around it my whole life,” said Matt Riley, a pilot from Kansas City, Missouri. “I started flying in the 1990s, when the US Nationals came to Columbia, Missouri, which is where I am from.”
Columbia is 92 miles south of Brookfield, where the annual Great Pershing Balloon Derby is held.
“So my parents and my uncle are originally from Brookfield, Missouri, and there’s an annual race up there that’s been happening for over 40 years,” Riley said. “… so ever since that, it runs in our family.”
Now, Matt pilots the Spirit of Kansas City alongside his wife, Jen, and two daughters, Brooklyn and Emma.
“My wife had never been around a balloon before we had met but … she’s into it now, along with (our) two daughters,” Riley said. “Now, we all go to races and have a good time.”
Just like the Riley family, Sky Star pilot Jos Seghers and his son Stan also relish the event.
“Every year, we look forward to coming back in October,” Stan Seghers said. “So it’s about the friends and flying here and taking people with us to fly and have fun.”
The Seghers are from Belgium and are one of five European balloon teams. The other four came from Britain.
“We attend festivals in Belgium and Italy as well, but my father has been coming here for 22 years,” Stan Seghers said.
Festival attendant Art Mesa came from out of state for the fun.
“I came from Utah to help some friends of mine come down from Napa and have been coming for 30 years,” Mesa said. “It is just about having a good time and enjoying the city and lifestyle as I used to live here.”
Mesa has seen the Balloon Fiesta evolve into the dominant figure it is today.
“The first time I went, … we were in fields. And the thing I remember most is everybody watching for glass,” Mesa said. Outside of the balloons, Mesa recommends that visitors check out the food.
“Oh yeah, the carne adovada is the best one for me and if they have it here, great, and if not, I am going to a restaurant,” Mesa said. “The chicharron burrito that they sell is my favorite food.”