Taos hosts its 38th micro balloon event
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Almost everyone is familiar with the Big One – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – which dominates the skies for nine days in early October.
But not many people know about the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, which tends to, uh, go unnoticed. It starts with a mini ascent on Friday morning, followed by strap rides for schoolchildren, and continues until October 31 with a full morning ascent.
A micro hot air balloon event as the number of balloons is capped at 35 due to the size of the launch field, the Taos Mountain Rally is always popular due to the magnificence of the flying venue.
âAt this time of year, with all the trees changing color, when you fly you have a view of the Rio Grande Gorge and the surrounding mountains,â said Mike Olsen, chairman of the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally. Association. âIt’s spectacular. It’s nice.”
As its 38th event neared, the rally was started by Albuquerque aeronauts who needed a break from the attack on Duke City, he said.
âThis was started by a few Albuquerque aeronauts who were overwhelmed by the size of Albuquerque and they wanted something they could come and have fun with,â Olsen said. âThey worked with other people in Taos and organized it to be a drivers rally.â
With such a small group of pilots and such incredible scenery to see, the slots are coveted, he said.
âWe have pilots everywhere,â he said. âThere’s a significant percentage of Albuquerque and the region, but we also get them from across the country. “
The drafts surrounding Albuquerque creating the famous box are one of the reasons the Balloon Fiesta is so popular, but Taos often has similar models, Olsen said.
âThe currents come from the mountains and some mornings you can take off and come back to the same place,â he said. âWe have limits with the Taos Pueblo because they control a lot of the land around here and it’s forbidden airspace. Pilots have to be very careful with the way they fly and where they are with the way the winds blow. “
And, as with the Fiesta, flight deck encounters are encouraged, with typically 800 to 1,000 visitors walking the grounds.
âWe’re still a little concerned about COVID, so we’re asking everyone to cover up,â Olsen said. âBut people can walk to the balloons, talk to the pilots, volunteer to be part of the crews. It’s a family event. It’s a good time.
A few vendors will be part of the festivities, but, again, far from the number at the Albuquerque Fiesta.
âWe’re going to have a few food vendors, coffee vendors, a really nice couple bringing a lot of very colorful kites and swirls, shirts and hats,â Olsen said. âWe really want people to go and enjoy Taos Town and enjoy our wonderful shops, artists and restaurants.â
Ralph and Marcie Sweet have sponsored a balloon for each rally and are currently in the second generation with Balloonmeister Phil Campbell. They had previously sponsored Campbell’s father, Calvin Campbell, who was one of the first drivers involved in the rally. He recently passed away.
The event is something the Sweets also circle on their timeline, said Ralph Sweet.
“It’s the only thing I do in my life that has no other purpose than to make me laugh,” he said.
Although not a balloon pilot himself, Sweet has been fortunate enough to fly through gorges, over mountains, and to navigate low above the ground.
âRiding in a hot air balloon is a great way to see the countryside, no matter where you are,â he said. âThe view, it always changes, no matter how many times you see the same place. Flying above you, you barely move. We’ve been flying over the holidays for years and you can have a conversation with people 50 feet below you. It’s a community event here.