Sunday, October 12, 2014

Whee! Volunteering at “Spirit of the Winds”

Always on the lookout for volunteer opportunities, I contacted the coordinator of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This 9-day event is the biggest and best gathering of hot-air balloons anywhere in the world. Huge numbers of balloons and pilots from all over the world are here.

As a 'people person', the chance to be a greeter appealed to me. And being a 'morning person', I asked for morning shifts. And that's what I got – my greeter shift was from 5 to 8 a.m. And if I wanted a nearby parking place, that meant arriving before 4 a.m! And of course, that meant getting up real early!

This is a huge annual event that relies on volunteers – and they treat them super. The Volunteer Hospitality tent serves free meals and snacks each day along with free parking, as well as a long-sleeve t-shirt, cap, pin, 2015 balloon calendar, and several special volunteer-only parties.

It's a happy place. Thousands of people from everywhere come through the entry gates grinning from ear to ear – some arriving as early as 4 a.m! Many visitors said this event was on their 'bucket list' and were thrilled to finally be here. We also have people who come every year. Visitors can walk right onto the grass launch field – up close and personal as the balloons inflate and ascend.

Besides the 'normal-shape balloons' there are many 'special shapes' such as Airabelle the flying cow from the local Creamland Dairy. The balloonists rely on lots of volunteers as crew – helping lay out the balloon, assist with the inflation, and then ride with the 'chase vehicle' to be on hand when and wherever the balloon lands.

It was a super time for me and I look forward to volunteering again next year. The theme is 'Where Dreams Take Flight'. Dates are Oct. 3 to 11, 2015. Put this event on your bucket list!

What's next for me?
City of Rocks State Park in southern New Mexico, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 25. Then to Arizona for the traditional Anderson family Thanksgiving celebration.

Concerning 'bucket lists' – numerous unimportant, dumb things steal our minutes and siphon the significance out of our hours. Either we can fuss and whine about not having enough time to do things we really want to do, or we can take the time we've got left and spend it wisely. What's on your Bucket List?