Artesia the place to be for balloons and bluegrass

November 4, 2012 • Local News

Pilot Kiman Kingsley of Miller, Mo., was one of the first to get up in the air at the Balloons and Bluegrass Festival in Artesia, Saturday. Chaunte’l Powell Photo

Clear afternoons skies and favorable wind conditions salvaged the balloon portion of the Balloons and Bluegrass Festival in Artesia, Saturday.

The original launch was scheduled for about 7 a.m., but winds were blowing between 18-21 mph, which is much higher than the 5-10 mph balloonists are recommended to fly in.

In downtown Artesia, the bluegrass portion of the festival went off without a hitch. Vendors sold paintings, jewelry, pillows, and of course food, while bands [auth] performed for bluegrass lovers from various parts of southeastern New Mexico. The event attracted Roswell resident Bobby Graves, who said he enjoyed the spiritual element found in The Triple L Band’s performance. The family group performed at the festival for the first time.

The Triple L Band was one of the new talents Carla Miner, the coordinator of Balloons and Bluegrass, found just in time for the show. She said due to cancellations from a few of the groups, she had to quickly find replacements, which led her to find talent right under her nose.

“In the process of looking, I reached out to one of our bands, Vintage, and they suggested a list,” she said. “Triple L was one of them and they sound great and we also had a local Artesia band I had never heard of. They all have a different twist on how they do it. Some are more gospel, some more fun and the harmonics that they do is really cool.”

That afternoon at the Pecos Inn, balloon pilots met to decide if they would attempt to fly that afternoon. Roswell resident and longtime balloon pilot Bill Glen, said it was rather unusual to fly late in the afternoon due to the unpredictable nature of wind conditions as well as the chance of thermals being present during that time. Thermals are spirals of air that Glen said are more likely to occur during the afternoon and can carry a balloon up to dangerous heights. After a quick discussion, the group decided they would give it a go, and a caravan of balloonists raced over to the draw to get set up. Glen said the enthusiasm to get up in the air was shared by all involved, but safety was a huge concern.

“We wanted to put on a show for the crowd and do the best we can, but we wanted to be safe,” he said. “When we travel to different events throughout the country, we want to put on a show for the crowd. We want to put it on for the kids and the families, because ballooning is a family sport.”

Miner said she was excited for them to take off due to the variety of balloonists the event had attracted, which included a man all the way from England, as well as the large number of spectators that came out early that morning to see the balloons take off.

The ultimate decision to fly was left up to the pilots and after surveying the conditions at the draw, nearly 10 balloons went up that afternoon, flying over the bluegrass concert still going on, before drifting off into the late afternoon sun.

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