In December and January, Arizona skies are typically clear, temperatures are moderate, and there is little wind. In other words, it is perfect weather for hot air balloons. During our stay here, we have come across three balloon rallies, but the local Goodyear rally yesterday (1/25/20) was the first one we have been able to attend.
Except for Albuquerque, which takes two weekends, the entire week between, and features some 600 balloons, all of the other festivals are over a single weekend, typically starting with a night glow on Friday night and ascensions on Saturday and Sunday. And there are usually something like 20 or 30 balloons represented. The Arizona Balloon Classic here is in its ninth year, and reminded us a lot of the festival in Albany, Oregon. One pleasant difference is that, similar to Albuquerque, we were able to walk onto the field and get right next to the crews as they set up. As you can see from these pictures, this gives opportunity for more personal and impressive pictures and experiences. In fact, in the early morning cold, the crews began testing their burners, which provided a blast of early morning heat. Standing at a respectable distance from the basket, Ellen called out, “that feels good!” They hollered back, “come on over and get close.” Naturally we did. It was a great experience.
We arrived when the gates opened at 7, just before sunup. The balloon in the first photo was the first balloon up, (the “hare” in the “hounds and hare” chase contest). After giving them a 10 minute head start, the other balloons set off in pursuit, a new one rising every few minutes for the next hour or so. I took about 400 pictures, but as usual have pared it to my 10 favorites.
At a price of $10 each for seniors, it was well worth it for a fantastic morning.