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December 30, 2023

MN in NM Part 3-Fiesta Time!

Friday, October 13

Coffee was brewed and we were bundled up and well on our way before 4 am. Traffic was light and the event staff were well organized to direct the coming crowds. With our early start, we were parked within a reasonable walking distance to the entrance gate and the Balloon Fiesta Park was in sight!

4:30 AM and all smiles!

It was all smiles and contented chatter as we took a chilly stroll along the main thoroughfare where one could buy souvenirs, chat with vendors, and partake in all the favorite State Fair-esque foods. It was time to introduce my Minnesota friends to a New Mexico delicacy, Navajo Fry Bread. FRY BREAD…ahhhh, a perfect blend of sweet, chewy, crispy flat bread, freshly rolled and fried to perfection. It can either be topped with powdered sugar, drizzled with honey, or made into a savory “Navajo Taco” with beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato garnish. We went for the simple sweet version in both plain and blue corn. Much like the biscochitos from the prior day, the blue corn version won out as the favorite.

Eating Fry Bread

As the crowd began to grow, we made our way in the dark onto the Balloon Fiesta field, where crews for hundreds of hot air balloons were getting ready for the morning’s liftoff. A handful of patriotic balloons were inflating to signal the start of the day’s mass ascension, their vibrant colors illuminating in the dark each time the propane flame ignited to fill the balloon with warm air. And right before the sun began to reveal the outline of the Sandia Mountains to the east, the 6 “Dawn Patrol” Balloons launched, followed by a fly-by from our local Air Force base.

Rows and rows of colorful balloons surrounded us. And by the time the sun peaked over the mountains, hundreds of balloons were launched into the air. You can’t help but get giddy and smile at the spectacle and wonder of it all. It is truly magical, and as expected, my friends were delighted. The varieties of balloons, especially during this “Special Shapes” event, kept us busy with our cameras for hours.

Jodi, me, and Special Shapes Balloons

There’s so much to do in addition to watching the balloons launch! Concerts and fun activities on the main stage, shopping, chainsaw carving contests, fun challenges and competitions for the balloon pilots, and plenty of space to just hang out among the locals and visitors from all over the world. There are evening events like the “Balloon Glows” where hundreds of tethered balloons light up all at once as spectators mill around and delight in the colorful array. And of course, it’s worth staying around for the awesome fireworks shows, too!

Melissa is all smiles!

Once we had our fill of the morning event, we trekked back to our car and went on a hunt for a good New Mexican breakfast. We landed at an Albuquerque gem, the Range Café, and had our fill of Bloody Mary’s and darn good New Mexico comfort food!

Bloody Mary's at The Range Cafe

Next up, we decided it would be fun to park back at the loft and walk to the downtown train station to catch the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe. This was a beautiful way to relax, rest, and enjoy some sights while someone else did the driving. Passing through the unique southwestern landscape, historic pueblos, and arriving at the beautiful Santa Fe train station, we were ready to explore.

With its historic square, landmark cathedrals, art galleries, shops, and great restaurants, we enjoyed being on foot and experiencing this world-renowned city just 60 miles north of Albuquerque. By the time we got back to our downtown digs, we were exhausted and had clocked over 21,000 steps! But what a day!!

Next up you'll find out how Santa Clause and a Sparkle Fairy made their way into our adventures!