Sunday, October 5, 2008
This week I checked something off my life list:
As a surprise for the cast, the advance team got us all volunteer positions to work the opening day of the largest hot air balloon event in the USA, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!
We didn't go home after our show Friday night, but went instead to a banquet facility we used all week called the Event Palace, where we took about a two-hour nap before departing for the Balloon Fiesta launch grounds at 4:00am Saturday morning.
About 40 people volunteered for the Make a Wish foundation, working their tables selling calendars and programs, and the other 60 were on chase crews. We were assigned balloon pilots in groups of 2-3, and were spread out over the 74 acres of balloons. There were over 600 launched in a little under two hours.
To be on the field, seeing so many balloons filled and lit up in the dawn, and then taking off in pickups and vans to chase the balloons through ABQ and repack them was totally exhilarating. There were at least 15 cast members who were invited by their pilot to fly in the balloon instead of riding on the ground in the chase crew... we felt so lucky, and decided it was definitely worth it to schedule a night that lasted only three hours (which is always a fear when you are responsible for planning a ridiculous schedule.)
Another recommend from this week's stay: anybody can come and volunteer on a chase crew at the fiesta. Lots of people come and volunteer multiple days for the same balloonist in hopes that they will reward your hard work with a free ride. I would love to come back and do it again sometime.