New Mexico is the center of the world for hot air ballooning. The October Balloon Festival in Albuquerque is world famous and worthy of a trip from anywhere to enjoy. Belen’s local festival on the weekend after St Patrick’s day is much smaller, but still a great way to spend an early Saturday morning.
We first saw a balloon festival in Pagosa Springs in the year 2000. Pagosa has both a Spring and a Fall festival. It seems like about 30 balloons attend – many of them making the drive up from New Mexico – the bright colored balloons ascending with a backdrop of the San Juan Mountains and River amongst the Ponderosa pines is something special.
The Belen St Patrick’s weekend festival has been drawing balloons for a number of years. They expected 60 balloons this year, and in person, it seemed like there were at least that many. The turnout of townspeople was huge. It was a perfect weather, blue sky, clear and warm March 18 morning. The mass ascension honored a long-time participant who died recently by allowing his Smoky the Bear balloon to inflate and ascend first.
We live in an incredible time when the resources and abundance of a land enable just normal people in a little, out of the way town like Belen, to enjoy and share and participate in the wonder and beauty of others’ hobbies and interests.