By Marty Mayfield
The 2017 International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally in Raton ended Sunday, July 2nd with blue skies and light winds as 15 balloonists took to the air with a good crowd watching from the ground.
Friday morning, June 30th was a scrub as winds and cloudy skies prevented the mass acsension at La Mesa Airfield for the first day of the 2017 event. Saturday again was met with cloudy skies and light winds, but the cloud deck was just above the 1500 foot minimum flight ceiling and allowed balloonist to fill the sky with balloons. Sunday morning the sun, unobstructed by clouds, rose above the mesas east of Raton and light winds again favored the balloonist as they inflated and flew south.
What does it take to make all this fun happen? It takes sponsors and a dedicated team of volunteers from the Raton MainStreet balloon committee and the community. There are many reason why individuals and businesses agree to spend the money to sponsor a balloon. Reasons heard include, “we really enjoy doing this!” and “to give back to the community and provide something for residents to do and get involved with.” Others have simply been bitten by the balloon bug and enjoy being involved in the event. Others may sponsor a balloon for the ride as sponsors are guaranteed a ride unless the weather prevents launch as was the case Friday morning.
Being a sponsor also comes with a certain amount of work as many balloonist may not have a full chase crew and the sponsor is responsible to provide a couple of people to help with the balloon inflation and packing up. Some sponsors however because of work reasons may not get anyone out to help so anyone who comes out can help as part of a chase crew and have ofttimes been offered a ride in exchange for the help. While helping out as a chase crew is fun and work, the ride is the prize. As the balloon rises above the ground the sights become one that most people don’t get to see. The wide open spaces of the area become visible, seeing things from a new perspective above the clutter of the ground.
As the balloon rises even further above the ground some of the noises fade away while others find their way into your ears. The joy of the ride, however, is the peaceful, easy feeling one gets from floating along watching the ground slowly move by, it becomes more quiet and the only loud noise is the burner filling the envelope with hot air.
But “I have a fear of heights” has often been heard as an excuse not to go up but those who have faced that fear and taken a ride have come back down with huge smiles on their faces exclaiming that was fun. They enjoyed the ride and often speak of the quiet peaceful feeling they encounter as they float along. Finding that the fear simply wasn’t there.
Planning for next year will begin soon as Raton Mainstreet’s balloon committee begins the work to bring the balloons back next year.