The New Mexico tourism board insists that you attend the 48th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, as does your Instagram feed. Six hundred hot air balloons await you in Albuquerque, dragons taking to the sky. (Don Quixote is a persona non grata at the balloon fiesta, on account of last time we all went, he went at them with his lance and threw the pilots out of their baskets. He was really upset that he didn’t get to come with this year, and we all had to take it in turns to talk him down.)
You could go in the morning, waking up to see the balloons’ first take-off at dawn. Hundreds of the best breakfast burrito vendors will be there to cure you of sleep-deprived nausea, and the view will be worth it, but why not go at a more civilized hour?
So we did, taking off in two buses full of students, staff, and parents here for Parents Weekend. The trip was paid for in full by the Student Activities Office, so there could be no excuse not to take advantage of this essential experience of the American West. The evening drive itself was worth the trip. We sang Dusty Springfield and watched the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo, the Blood of Christ mountains of New Mexico, as we flew down I-25.
Pulling up to the “Fiestival,” as my giddy cohort termed it, we were welcomed into the tour-bus hospitality tent, where we fought each other for the free Krispy Kreme doughnuts and drank too much tepid coffee. We walked up and down the rows and rows of food tents and t-shirt vendors, eventually landing on a Navajo-fry-bread dinner.
The world-renowned Fiesta sees an estimated 950,000 visitors every year, and Johnnies will always be part of that number. We settled on a spot on the 78-acre launch field to take in the eight o’clock fireworks show, still making jokes on Thomas Hobbes’ behalf, still contending with the looming deadline for seminar essays. Rowdy and warm, we watched the colors explode over Albuquerque from the grass. Come see it for yourself.