Families from all over the neighborhood came out to SY Jackson Elementary School Friday morning for the ABQ Aloft Fiesta kickoff event that brings balloons for kids to see, learn about and enjoy outside of the annual Balloon Fiesta.
Principal Jack Vermillion said the event brings hundreds of families, and the school provided pre-ordered breakfast burritos from Weck’s and donuts from Two Boys.
Vermillion said he had been heading up the event for years since its inception at SY Jackson and that it was really great to see such a large turnout this year.
“Since the pandemic, we had halted family events like this, and lately lots of people have been coming out to our events, so we hope to start bringing more stuff for families to enjoy on a monthly basis here at the school,” Vermillion said.
The balloon called the Grateful Red from balloonist Gary Boyd set up first, taking only about 15-20 minutes to get fully filled and upright.
The second, called Miss Shenanigans from local Steven Adams was set up shortly after with hopes to take flight later in the morning.
Families set up all over the field in lawn chairs and on blankets, snapping photos as parents explained how the hot air balloons work while sipping on hot cocoa and coffee.
Kids got to take turns pulling the line that lets out hot air flames, as well as letting hot air out of the balloon, holding the tether line that keeps a balloon grounded, and receiving Balloon Fiesta trading cards from both ballooning pilots.
Boyd said that pilots usually want a hot air balloon to get to 180 degrees inside before taking flight and that he and his family have enjoyed coming out to elementary schools for Albuquerque Aloft for years. His balloon, the Grateful Red, pays homage to the Grateful Dead. He said he acquired the balloon from someone else but never felt the need to change the unique name.
Since its inception in 2005, both pilots have been a part of the Fiesta and Aloft program. Albuquerque Aloft is the only Balloon Fiesta event where balloons launch from pre-designated sites outside Balloon Fiesta Park, taking off from elementary schools all over the metro.