BALLOON GLOW HOSTAGE?
Celia Ludi of Santa Fe wants to know “what happened in the balloon parking area October 7?”
This was the Friday night of a torrential downpour, a shelter-in-place order and a scramble to get to higher/dry ground.
“We parked in the Porky Pig lot around 6 p.m.,” Celia emails. “Everything went smoothly and relatively quickly. We left the field about 7:15 and were in the car, pulled out into the exit line, by 7:30. And then we sat there, unmoving, for the next two hours. We could see the upper lots emptying, but nothing was moving in ours. There was no explanation, except for the shelter-in-place alert on our phones. … A little after 9:30 the cars finally started moving out.”
“At some point someone in another vehicle got out, and walked around, and came back saying the gates were closed and there was no traffic direction personnel, apparently because they hadn’t expected the event to be over until 10. How is it OK to lock the gates, ever? What if someone has an emergency or just wants to leave early? People with small children, no access to restrooms; it was a huge mess. I’d really love to know what happened and hope you can find out.”
NO LOCKED GATES, NO HELP GETTING OUT, EITHER: Tom Garrity, president of The Garrity Group Public Relations, got with the fiesta to get to the bottom of it. First, he says he is “sorry to hear about (Celia’s) Balloon Fiesta experience.” He adds the glow the evening of Oct. 7 “was very well attended. Many of Balloon Fiesta’s seven parking lots were at or near capacity.”
And he provided this play-by play:
• After a slight delay to monitor a rain shower that developed south of the park, special shape balloons started the process of inflating and glowing for their evening show.
• About 10 minutes into the balloon glow, an isolated thunderstorm developed rapidly over Balloon Fiesta park. With an estimated 40,000-50,000 people on site, Balloon Fiesta asked guests to shelter in place (and) provided access to on-site shelters – Sid Cutter Pilots’ Pavilion, Event Center, Public Safety Center and event tents – and made buses available for guests to take shelter. The Public Safety Team helped to get many guests into shelters, later reuniting families that became separated in the midst of the storm.
• Once the storm cleared, the field was closed and the buses were restaged to take guests back to respective park-and-ride locations. The pressure of guests all leaving at the same time resulted in significant delays.
“Concerning the gates being closed/locked,” Garrity says, “I spoke with Balloon Fiesta’s Amanda Brady, who oversees parking and transportation for the event. She relayed, ‘the gates were open at all lots, Porky (Pig) included.’ She also shared that the parking volunteers are directed to only get cars into Balloon Fiesta Park and have been directed by the Albuquerque Police Department to not facilitate their exit, citing the safety of the volunteers.”
And as my colleague Rick Nathanson reported Wednesday, if weather canceled your event, hang on to your tickets for the 2023 fiesta. Per Garrity, “it goes without saying that the (Oct. 7) event is a rain-check event.”
WE CAN’T READ THE STREET SIGNS: So says R obin, who emails a group of friends were headed south on Juan Tabo to lunch in September, “looking for Brentwood Hills Road,” but “the lettering on the street sign was gone.”
Robin reports “we made it safely to the restaurant, no thanks to the street sign. As I was driving home that afternoon, I saw another sign in the same condition. … These are large intersections, and this is extremely dangerous. Before winter comes and it starts getting dark early again, the city needs to inspect all of the street signs to make sure they are legible, at least at the major intersections.”
Scott Cilke with Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development says “Traffic Engineering is currently developing a comprehensive program to regularly evaluate and replace signs. However, until that is complete, they rely on folks to point out faded signage via 311.” The team “will evaluate and replace the (Brentwood Hills) sign in question if necessary.”
Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; email@example.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.