Hot air balloons begin to land in open areas near East Pine Lodge early Saturday morning during Old Timers Balloon Rally. Mark Wilson Photo
Roswell was literally taken to a higher level at the soccer field just west of the Wool Bowl, Saturday morning.
Despite their small numbers and humble beginnings, the Old Timers Balloon Club, a group of about 10 local hot air balloon enthusiasts, rallied 54 balloonists from around the world to participate in a colorful feat of aeronautical prowess during the 25th annual Old Timers Balloon Rally.
There was Flame On, a balloon sponsored by the Artesia Chamber of Commerce; Sky Pony, courtesy of Personal Excellence Martial Arts; Viento Encantado, Spanish for Enchanted Wind, sponsored by Tom and Sue Kelley; and Flame Buoyant II brought by Roswell Seed Co.
Then there were the even more creatively-named balloons, such as Pop-A-Top Again, sponsored by DH Underground; Black Magic Woman, sponsored by Doug Riddle; and Hot Stuff, perhaps a double entendre given the amount of heat it takes to lift a balloon, as well as the chile peppers that decorate this one particular aircraft. Hot Stuff was sponsored by CenturyLink.
The event Friday was the first time that Bryce Roach, 11, saw a hot air balloon up close. He said he enjoyed “the very colorful, different designs.
“I didn’t know there was (a balloon) shaped like Smokey Bear,” he said. Despite his newfound fascination with the balloons, Bryce was quick to say he would probably not ride in one.
“No,” he said with a shy laugh. “I don’t like heights.” On the other hand, Montana Miranda, 10, said she wouldn’t mind the altitude.
“I really want to (ride in a balloon),” said the Roswell newcomer. Her parents Juan and Melissa, moved to Roswell from Tucson, Ariz., four weeks ago. This was the first time Montana got an up close look at one of New Mexico’s most unique draws. She said she had not realized that balloons “have to have a fire to go up.”
According to Susie Glen, treasurer of the Old Timers Balloon Club, the event included at least one balloonist from England, many from neighboring states, and many more from throughout New Mexico.
“We’ve had more balloons this year,” Glen said of the event. “We’ve also had more sponsors.” The event’s major sponsor was Krumland Auto Group.
It seemed even the weather was more than cooperative, with clear, blue skies and a slight breeze.
Although many locals came out to see the anticipatory unraveling and inflating of a hot air balloon before takeoff, the process is a family tradition for Glen. Her husband Bill is vice president of the balloon club. Their son, Michael Glen, flew Joelly, a honeybee-shaped balloon. The Glens’ other son, Chris Glen, flew Heavens Quilt.
“It’s just a good, family event,” said Susie Glen. “The balloonists are like an extended family.” She said the Old Timers Balloon Club enjoys putting on events for the community, and mentioned the hot air balloon takeoffs that took place at various elementary schools throughout Roswell, Friday.
To help them learn more about the dynamics of the hot air balloon, children at Monterrey Elementary helped inflate tissue paper balloons with the help of the Balloon Explorium from Albuquerque, also on Friday.
An opportunity to learn more about ballooning in Roswell is just one of the assets of the Old Timers Balloon Rally Club, said crewmember Doug Ranson.
“The first time anyone ever flew, it was in a hot air balloon,” he said. Now that there are more formal ways of flying, ballooning remains as a social pastime. However, as flying contraptions, hot air balloons are still subject to a lot of rules.
“(Ballooning) is a hobby, but it’s a regulated hobby,” Ranson said, noting that hot air balloons must be licensed and inspected.
Ranson said that while there is no standard size for a hot air balloon, most are between 90 and 100 feet tall. A balloon requires a great amount of heat to lift off. A single balloon burner creates 11 million BTUs. A balloon is typically equipped with two burners.
“That’s like heating a seven-story building,” Ranson said. Several balloon enthusiasts laughed, noting that’s why a hot air balloon is called, well, a hot air balloon.
For more information about the Old Timers Balloon Club, call Bill Glen, at 637-0938.