Balloons Over Albuquerque
October 2002
Page 5

Dawn Patrol

This would be the first day for us to attend a morning event at the Balloon Fiesta. We had to get up very early to watch the Dawn Patrol — we were up at 4:30 AM and out at 5:30 AM. The Dawn Patrol consists of a few hot air balloonist who take their balloons up before sunrise. The plan is to watch the sunrise from 2000 or 3000 feet above the park. With the sun yet to come up, it was still dark making the Dawn Patrol balloons look somewhat like a small Balloon Glow.

The Dawn Patrol is ready to lift off

It is fun to watch as the balloons glow when taking off. Then when the flame is out, all that can be seen is are dim silhouettes of the balloons. The balloons can be seen better as the sun begins to light up the sky, then suddenly the colorful orbs are brightly illuminated by the sun before the sun can be seen in the valley. The balloonists, who participate in this ritual, also provide a secondary service by providing the other balloonist with a preview of the wind conditions aloft.

As Kay and I went into the park, a woman with a European accent tried to recruit us for a balloon crew. I almost volunteered when I thought about this being our first time here and I wanted to experience it as a spectator first. So, I declined and we proceeded on down to the field. I learned later that volunteers do a great deal of the activity and work at the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. This year over 3000 volunteers prepared the grounds, worked as balloon crews and filled the roles of traffic control officials.

Part of the Dawn Patrol on its way up to a high sunrise

The Dawn Patrol had their glowing balloons rising in the darkness of the pre-dawn morning. It was a beautiful sight to see. Looking around the launch field, I could see many balloon teams assembled there in the dark. We found ourselves right in the middle of the action. We were able to find the others in our group in the darkness by using our little handheld transceivers.

More balloons take off in the dark

While we were enjoying watching the balloon activity, we were treated to music from a live band. I thought they did a pretty good job, so I wandered over to the stage. When I got there I was surprised to find out that the band was made up of members of the United States Air Force. The band went by the name of "Top Flight," a fitting name I thought. They began playing in the predawn darkness with the sun slowly coming up behind the mountains beyond the bandstand.

The U.S. Air Force band "Top Flight" provided very early morning rock and roll music

The local KOB TV station provided live, remote weather reports from the Balloon Fiesta grounds. The TV weatherman was a colorful character wearing a long white coat covered with fiesta pins. He was also wearing a hat that was shaped like a brightly colored hot air balloon.

A local TV weatherman talking to a group of children

At the end of the Dawn Patrol, the field was alive with vans and trucks taking up positions to make preparations to launch hot air balloons. The sun was rising over the mountains a short distance from the field.

After breakfast the sun is about to come up over the mountains



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