Festival

Floating in the blue

Taos Mountain Balloon Rally gets set to fill the skies with color

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This year marks the 35th annual Taos Mountain Balloon Rally. The schedule of events takes place Friday through Sunday (Oct. 27-29). Dawn patrol begins at 6:45 a.m. all three days. Ascension, according to the schedule, is at 8 a.m. Friday and 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The balloon launch field is located on Albright Street, just across from The Taos News’ office.

On Saturday, a Halloween-themed balloon parade is scheduled for 1 p.m. starting at Albright Street. The parade will then move north along Paseo del Pueblo Sur y Norte. Then, at dusk, the not-to-be-missed “Balloomenshine” takes place at the balloon launch field. All viewing events are free.

Different than larger balloon events, the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally is known for its intimate size and its up-close interactions. For example, if you are standing around on the field and a balloonist needs help stretching out the fabric, don’t be surprised if you’re asked for assistance. To learn how to become a sponsor (which includes balloon rides), visit taosballoonrally.com/index.html.

Reminder: All events are weather permitting and subject to cancellation for safety. Earl Buzzard is this year’s “balloonmeister” with the responsibility for monitoring weather conditions and overall safety. One other thing to note: No dogs, except for service animals, are allowed on the field. And smoking is not permitted.

Food vendors show up early in the morning to support the rally. As part of a continuous giveback loop, make it a part of your morning to buy a breakfast treat and warm cup of coffee during your viewing pleasure. Arts and crafts vendors will be on hand, too, with gifts and keepsakes.

Most notably, the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association (TMBRA) hats and T-shirts are collectors’ items, as the designs change each year. This year, Peter Martínez of Viva Sports designed the commemorative 35th-year anniversary “Fly Taos” logo.

The longevity of a 35-year free community event is noteworthy. In fact, that time frame is longer than many individuals in this community have been alive.

Neomi Standard, board member of TMBRA, grew up with the hot air balloons in Taos.

“I was born in 1985,” she said. “The balloon rally had already been going on for a couple of years. At a very early age, I couldn’t wait for the balloons to come in October. I wanted it more than Halloween. I had a love for when they would fly over and land in the field behind our house.”

Indeed, she has passed on the love of balloons to her 2-year-old daughter, Leslie, who also loves the balloons.

“If you love the balloons, become involved and support the community. We invite you to the parade. We’re always looking for volunteers and extra hands,” Standard said.

When Tempo interviewed Standard last year, it was doubtful whether the balloon rally would survive to this year – due to a persistent lack of community volunteers and financial support. Apparently, the rally continues because of the stalwart efforts of longtime volunteers. But getting new people to stick through the details and required organizational meetings has been rough.

As a result, there has been a slight impact to the rally this year. TMBRA appreciates all of the lodging sponsors, but the fact is not as many balloon crews are coming this year.

“In previous years, we had 34 to 35 balloonists. This year, it will be, like, 20 to 29,” Standard said.

Standard does point out that local businesses donate thousands of dollars in sponsorship and lodging for the pilots and crews. There will likely be a couple of pilots who simply just want to fly Taos, so they may come up at the last minute and there could be additional balloon flight opportunities.

Working virtually year-round, TMBRA’s paramount duties and responsibilities are about safety and ensuring the best Taos hospitality for visiting pilots, crews and families.

In a statement, TMBRA writes: “Every year on the last full weekend in October, as the trees in the high country surrounding this historic village erupt into a painter’s canvas of oranges, reds, ambers and yellows, even more color is added to the vista as the Taos skies are filled with dozens of brightly colored hot air balloons lifting into the clear, cold dawn of a Taos Mountain sunrise.”

In addition to being a fantastic fall experience, the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally continues to give back to the community. Every year, TMBRA gives one scholarship to a deserving student. In 2016, the association had extra funds and was able to give two scholarships – one each to students Johnny Montaño (Taos High School) and Leam Silverman (Taos Academy Charter School).

Standard says she has been receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from out-of-state visitors looking forward to coming to Taos, vacationing here and possibly taking balloon rides.

“To the folks that travel near and far, we appreciate your support and your interest in our rally. It is great that they take interest in our community for our culture, beauty and spirit. Yes, it’s the spirit,” Standard said.

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