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One of the most frequent questions I get when I post or talk about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is, “how do you actually chase balloons?” Well, this post is packed with everything you need to know so you can join in on the fun.
In fact, speaking of fun…because I’m so passionate about the Balloon Fiesta, I’m partnering with DASANI® Sparkling for this post, because they’re (wait for it…..) giving away a trip to next years fiesta! Say WHAT?!
Win a Trip to the 2019 Balloon Fiesta
DASANI Sparkling is all about keeping the magic and fun alive, and with more than a dozen flavors to pick from, they have a flavor for your next adventure. An adventure like, a chance to win a trip to my hometown, Albuquerque, NM, for the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Amazing, right?! Entering is super easy: Take a picture with your favorite flavor of DASANI Sparkling (find a Kroger or Kroger banner store near you here: http://cbi.as/a2hv6) Post it on Instagram or Twitter using #DasaniSparkling AND #FlavorContest DO IT before November 15! The grand prize winner (plus three guests) will win a trip to the 2019 Balloon Fiesta next year (October 2019) They’ll get round trip transportation for four, three nights’ accommodation, a rental car, two (2-day) Gondola Club passes (totally jealous of this, because that’s awesome), a hot air balloon ride for two (!!!), travel agent services, and $1,000 spending money! Talk about amazing! NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.Legal residents of certain U.S. states and D.C., 18 years or older.Ends 11/15/18.For rules, hashtags, alternate methods of entry, odds, prize and complete details, visit http://cbi.as/a2gej. Void in CT, FL, IA, ME, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NY, ND, OK, PA, SD, and VT and where prohibited.
How to Chase Balloons During the Balloon Fiesta
We’ve been unofficially chasing balloons for as long as I can remember. Back when I was a kid we’d hop in our Dodge Caravan (my brother in the middle row, and I’d take over the back), pick up a McDonald’s breakfast, and we’d drive around town trying to find balloons as they landed.
One of the cool things about Albuquerque is that there are tons of open space. Lots of parks, big streets, open fields, and even huge backyards make it the perfect spot for balloons to land.
Don’t be surprised if you’re driving along a random street and see balloons parked right smack dab in the middle of the road.
In fact, balloons land in even crazier places….like the roof of fast food restaurants! Here’s one we chased this year that landed on top of a fast food restaurant!
Balloon chasing is a fun adventure, and definitely something someone every age can enjoy. If you’re ready to chase balloons, here’s everything you need to know:
Pick your Balloon
First things first, keep your eyes on the prize.
If there are two or more balloons near you, keep an eye on them and pick one—only one—to chase.
Being too wishy-washy means you may not make it to either one. We typically pick the one closest to us at the time, or the prettiest one (if we have a couple to pick from).
Chances are, if they’re all floating around you, you can help more than one, so pick your balloon, and start chasing!
Have a Designated Driver
Driving around is easily the hardest part of chasing.
You need to keep your eyes on the road and be able to trust your backseat (or passenger) “driver” to steer you in the right direction.
The driver needs to:
- Be safe. Seat belts on, and keep your eye out for other cars, pedestrians, official chase crews, and balloons at all times. Keep the radio off, and the windows down.
- Be assertive. If you need to make a u-turn, make it as soon as safely possible (now is not the time to take a Sunday drive and take your time until you find the perfect cul-de-sac to turn around.
- Be patient. You may need to pull over and wait for a little while. Pull over or off the road and put your hazards on while you wait to see what the balloon decides to do.
One more thing for the driver: if you see a chase crew without a gondola in the back of their truck follow it. Chances are they’re on their way to help their balloon!
Have a Backseat Driver (and Use a Map)
It’s imperative to have a second person in the car with you, because you need their eyes in the sky while the driver’s focusing on the road.
Back in my day we didn’t have GPS on our phones, but boy does this help now!
The city of Albuquerque is laid out like a grid (meaning streets run parallel to each other), but oftentimes you’ll find dead-ends, streets that curve, or a school/building planted in the middle that you need to go around.
Having your map app open helps tremendously in trying to predict where that balloon is heading, and so the backseat (or passenger) “driver” can give directions.
Patience is a Virtue
Balloons have a mind of their own. You’ll think one is about to land, when all of a sudden the pilot must want to stick around in the air a little longer, so it’ll float back up. Or, you’ll want to chase one balloon that appears to want to stick around in the sky.
Have patience. What comes up, must come down, right?!
If you get stuck on a road and aren’t sure how to get to the balloon, have patience. Look at your surroundings and see how you can get there.
Don’t Forget Snacks!
The last thing you want to do when you’re chasing balloons is have a wave of hunger or thirst overtake you as you’re patiently waiting for balloons.
Make sure you’re stocked with snacks and refreshments for your morning adventure.
Pack a small cooler with DASANI Sparkling to quench your thirst, and some snacks to keep you going.
DASANI Sparkling comes in so many flavors—I’m totally digging their Tropical Pineapple, Lime, and Raspberry Lemonade—that everyone on your unofficial chase crew can pick their favorite!
Don’t forget to enter their sweepstakes to win a trip to the Balloon Fiesta in 2019. This is an amazing opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on. Find your DASANI Sparkling at a Kroger store near you and entered ASAP!
Wear the Right Clothes
Ladies, now is not the time to wear heels or a dress. Closed-toe shoes, pants (jeans are best), but I sometimes love leggings since I feel more free to move around in them, and layers are necessary when you’re helping these balloons. You’ll be walking/running on dirt with weeds, thorns, goat heads, and more.
If you have a pair of work gloves, bring them along. When you’re literally holding down a gondola, or folding up the envelope, it’s handy to have them available.
I mentioned layers, because it’s still pretty chilly in the late morning, but once you get out there and start bringing down balloons, or helping them roll, fold, and load up their balloon, you’ll warm up pretty quickly.
Jump in there and Help
Once you’ve actually made it to where a balloon is landing, park the car safely away from where it’s headed, and jump in there and help!
Every balloon has an official and designated chase crew, but we’ve often arrived before they do.
I’m all for having women do all things, but here’s at least one time when a man can come in VERY handy.
These balloons are fast, heavy, and you truly need someone strong, often tall, to help literally hold the balloon down (or keep the balloon’s envelope off of sharp objects). If you have someone who fits that bill, jump out of the car and see if you can help.
When we arrive before the chase crew we’ll yell (because they’re usually a decent way up) and ask the pilot(s) if they need help (sometimes they can float and wait a bit for their crew to arrive), and then we hop to it.
If the chase crew is already there, we ask them if they need extra assistance. (We’ve never had someone turn us away.)
Yes, Kids Can Help, Too!
If you have kids, they may be a little scared (at least mine always are at the beginning).
The propane and fire keeping the balloon upright can be loud, intense, and scary. Not to mention, balloons are HUGE.
We keep our kids a safe distance away as long as they’re nervous, and then we get them up closer so they can experience it and see that it’s okay and not scary.
While I’d keep them away from literally helping a balloon land, once it’s safely on the ground, they can help get the hot air out and hold/roll out the “envelope” (the main balloon part).
(Watch my IG highlight stories to see the girls literally rolling out the big balloon’s hot air!)
The chase crew will help with specific directions, just keep in mind that each official chase crew and balloon crew is different.
Some will let you get very hands on, and others may let you just touch the balloon. Please be respectful of whatever they tell you.
Ask for a Souvenir
After you help a balloon in any way, and even if you didn’t, ask for their balloon trading card!
They all carry cards for their balloon (or another balloon they own), and they pass them out to the kids (and grown ups, if you ask). It’s a fun way to keep track and see which ones you helped throughout the fiesta.
Even if you were a bystander, they’ll let you have one…while supplies last, of course.
And if you really helped a balloon, and if they’re super awesome, they may even pass along a trading pin! SCORE!
Go Get Another One
If you have time, and there are more in the sky, hop back in the car, start all over, and go find yourself another balloon to chase! From start to finish it takes about 20 minutes depending on how many people are around to help.
On a really good day you can help about a half-dozen or more balloons!
Would you ever go chase balloons?