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Behind the Scenes With Volunteer Crews on the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival

That pilot was Gregory Ashton, 61, from Meridian, Idaho, who was flying Montie the Black Sheep, a grinning member of the special shape category, which also included Yoda, a tiger, and a sunglasses-wearing saguaro cactus.

Mr. Ashton put the pair to work straight away, pulling out the balloon and getting it inflated, after which had them coming back over the subsequent three days. The day before the festival ended, Mr. Ashton surprised Mrs. Graff with an invite to fly. In the basket, her important task was to observe out for other balloons within the sky: Any aircraft below them had the appropriate of way.

“We’re going, going, going,” Mrs. Graff said. “after which Greg adjusts the peak, after which we identical to, stop within the air. It’s a really cool experience to simply feel that change and just take a look at every thing, and take a look at the shadow of the balloons.”

Susan Van Campen, 65, a volunteer organizer on the festival, was helping recruit potential crew members on the stand where Mrs. Graff and Mr. Hunt had signed up. She handed anyone who expressed interest a sign-up sheet, a waiver, and booklets on safety and basic crewing tasks. Once the forms were signed, Mrs. Van Campen paired the volunteers with pilots, and in the event that they returned for more crew shifts, she said, she would offer them with a crew pass to attend the festival without charge (each session, either morning or evening, is often $15 an individual). With a whole bunch of pilots coming from throughout, she added, the festival all the time needed more crew members.

Balloonists have a practice, dating back to the early days in France, of sharing a champagne toast at the tip of a flight, as a good-will gesture to the owner of the landing site, in addition to to the crew.

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