One morning I got up at 5:00am (I really did) because I wanted to go across to the field and see them launch. It was an experience that I will not forget. The very first thing I noticed when I got there was the number of people. It was about 5:30 and it looked like the county fair but twice as crowded. Soon I realized why everyone came out so early. They have what they call a Dawn Patrol each morning. They are certain balloons that are selected to ascend in the dark.
The field is about the size of 2-3 football fields. It is huge. Each balloon has a designated spot where they lay out their balloon prior to launch. They lay the balloon out on the ground and then start these huge fans to begin to inflate them. Once they get to a certain size they can then start filling them with hot air from propane tanks in the gondola.
This pic shows the first balloon to ascend. It was very dark and cold outside at this hour but thousands of people were there. You can get right up to the balloons which makes it very exciting.
This is right up close to the action.
Once the sun started to appear all the balloons started preparing for “Mass Ascension”.
I took this picture so you could see the size of some of these balloons. This wasn’t even the biggest one.
This crew is just getting their balloon laid out and ready for the fans. You can see one of the crew members inside the balloon getting it all smoothed out and checking all the lines.
This pic shows balloons in different stages. Some are already in the air while others are just getting blown up.
This was a really great experience. The balloons are wonderful to see in the air, but to get up close to them prior to ascent is really a huge thrill. That is where all the action is.