The Art of Possibility: The Balloon Fiesta + other Albuquerque Wonders
The Art of Possibility:
The Balloon Fiesta + other Albuquerque Wonders
Many visitors to the state of New Mexico pass through Albuquerque as a portal to their vacation without really understanding the city’s distinct magic. Albuquerque has an artsy, contemporary vibe, with Route 66 architecture, shady adobe neighborhoods, farmers’ markets, and sustainable restaurants. But more importantly, Albuquerque thrives as a cultural destination rich with Puebloan and Hispanic traditions. Situated at the base of the Sandia Mountains, in an agricultural valley fed by the Rio Grande, Albuquerque is the unexpected gem of the American southwest.
This year Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta celebrates its 50th anniversary. When Sid Cutter, Mike Draper, and KOB’s Tom Rutherford first conceived the event they had ample enthusiasm and little time. The event took place in the parking lot of the Coronado Center and hosted thirteen balloons. In the early years the balloon pilots faced a variety of challenges, including weather, but the relationship between Sid and KOB evolved and the event grew in scale and artistry. Today the Balloon Fiesta hosts hundreds of balloons, and is believed to be the most photographed event in the world. The geology of the Sandia Range and the North Valley create a phenomenon known as the “Albuquerque Box” where wind patterns keep the balloons over the park during morning hours.
This edition we explore the wonders of Albuquerque. See our inhouse custom map to find out more about the region’s awe-inspiring cultural and adventure destinations. We also visit with Balloon Pilot Peggy Billson and Photographer Allen Morrison to discuss why the Duke City inspires the “Art of Possibility.”
Check out our new BALLOON FIESTA E-BIKE TOUR + all of our inspired ALBUQUERQUE offerings.
The Land of Possibility + Wonder
Your New Mexico adventure begins as you fly over the swell of the Sandia Mountains and gaze at the Rio Grande below. Often visitors will pass through Albuquerque without really experiencing the area’s distinct magic. The city has an artsy, contemporary vibe, with Route 66 architecture, shady adobe neighborhoods, farmers markets, and sustainable restaurants. Our Duke City E-Bike will connect you to the pulse of the community immediately. Albuquerque also thrives as a cultural destination rich with Puebloan and Hispanic traditions. Bring this colorful history to life as you join us for our Mezcla de Culturas Walking Tour.
After taking in the vibrant culture of ABQ, it will be time to venture out. In concentric circles, the possibilities and wonders of New Mexico ripple through the land. From exploring the remote beauty of Zuni Pueblo (keep an eye out for our Summer Solstice Zuni Tour in 2023), to wandering ancient streets of the “Sky City” Acoma Pueblo, and hiking the ancient black lava rivers of Malpais National Monument, Albuquerque and the surrounding areas dazzle the imagination. Let H.I. will take you there! Sign up for your journey today.
New this year our Balloon Fiesta E-Bike Tour, skip the traffic, have fun, and begin the adventure sooner! Be sure to read Interview with Balloon Pilot Peggy Billson and photographer Allen Morrison in this edition.
© Photo By Allen Morrison, The Land of Enchantment Photography, LLC
The Art of Possibility
A Conversation with Peggy Billson, Allen Morrison, and H.I. Enthusiast Anee Ward
Peggy Billson + Allen Morrison found each other at an aircraft company in Albuquerque. Peggy worked as an expert in developing and certifying new aircraft, and Allen worked on the HR side in aviation and aerospace recruitment. After a life changing trip to the Galapagos and retirement, Peggy and Allen have had the opportunity to pursue “the art of possibility.” Read more to find out about Peggy’s life as a balloon pilot (Assistant Balloonmeister this year at the 50th ABQ International Balloon Fiesta) and Allen’s enthusiasm for adventure photography, and how these complimentary lifestyles could only happen in the Duke City.
Explore the wonders of Albuquerque
with our new Balloon Fiesta E-Bike Tour, Cultural Walking + E-Bike Tours, and Chaco Tours.
Make your reservation today!
© Photo By Allen Morrison, The Land of Enchantment Photography, LLC
Anee: Can you tell me a little bit about your interest in flight and photography, and how the two passions evolved and intertwined?
Peggy: My passion for flying began as a teenager. I have been studying aviation and flying since the age of fifteen. I went on to earn a degree in aerospace engineering, and worked in the industry since then. After retiring in 2016, I became a “zebra” for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Zebras are the Launch Directors on the field. I started to fly balloons in 2017. When people ask me how this all came about? I answer, “I fly because that’s what I do.”
Anee: And you Allen when did this interest in photography begin?
Allen: In 2014, there was a quick stop at Costco to purchase a camera on our way to the Galapagos. With the first shutter click my life trajectory shifted forever. After 6 years of extensive self-education in all facets of photography and post-processing, I developed an eye for a variety of photographic genres. Although landscape, in particular dark sky photography, is my true passion. Now with my wife Peggy, we own and operate Land of Enchantment Photography, LLC, that includes a Gallery in Old Town, landscape and night sky photography tours, and post-processing workshops.
Anee: How have these two passions overlapped in your lives?
Allen: Well our two worlds are very complimentary. In ballooning it takes a team to make a flight happen, we are fortunate enough to have a group of friends who work with us. I am her “Crew Chief.” And then in the photography world Peggy does all the accounting and runs all the logistics for our adventure photography workshops. She is my Sherpa.
Anee: And you actually have a Balloon Fiesta workshop. The ABQ Balloon Fiesta is the most photographed event in the world. How do your backgrounds make your experience unique?
Allen: You have a limited time to shoot, knowledge of the event and balloon experience helps us determine how to plan for and anticipate that one shot.
Peggy: Good photographers can look at the mass of activity, and are able to see the specific. It might be just three balloons floating over the Rio Grande in the autumn colors. They can take a macro event, and find one beautiful moment.
Anee: What do you think is important for people to understand about the culture of Albuquerque?
Peggy: It’s the depth of culture, whether it is the 50 years of ballooning, hundreds of years with the Hispanic Culture, or a 1000 years ago with the Pueblos, there is a heritage New Mexicans hold onto. It is in the landscape, architecture, food, and events.
Anee: And yes the events! Because here in New Mexico people had to travel distances to gather, events have become part of our DNA, from the Balloon Fiestas, to the art markets, to Chaco.
Allen: I couldn’t agree more. I have done photography workshops with park rangers in Chaco Canyon. It’s a difficult to wrap your mind around that whole structure, being the center place, how people had to travel from these sub facilities, even Mesa Verde, what they had to do for their culture and their heritage, and the astronomical significance. It all correlates.