A Chaotic Kaleidoscope of Color

Yuma Balloon Festival Balloons in Flight

Regional festivals are something we never think to include in our trip planning. It’s an ongoing blind spot of ours. Mostly we roll into town and discover that we missed an annual extravaganza by a couple of days or weeks. Unless, of course, the event happens to be the big Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Apparently if it’s the kind of gathering that inspires news segments contrasting this year’s criminal violations with those of past rallies we show up just in time.

Our luck in these things isn’t always bad, though. In Yuma, Arizona, an equally colorful event of a completely different variety awaited us. Every November for the past 22 years hot air balloonists from around the region descend on Yuma for a weekend of floating and plumage flaunting. Without planning it, we somehow arrived in Yuma the Friday before liftoff.

Having barely missed the much larger Albuquerque Balloon Festival last year (as is our custom) we had never been to such an event. I didn’t really know what to expect. I imagined waking at dawn to watch a number of balloons take off from some respectable distance. The best I hoped for was to photograph a dozen or so balloons rising gently on a sunlit horizon. What we actually experienced was so much better.

Instead of watching the event from a roped off viewing area like we expected, Yuma allows visitors to mingle with the balloonists as they prepare their rides.

Yuma Balloon Festival Worker Inflating a Balloon

At first I wasn’t sure where I needed to be. While watching one balloonist fiddle with his gear, a giant bubble of blue and yellow started inflating behind me. Thinking I was missing the action, I hurried in that direction.

Yuma Balloon Festival Balloons

Before long, though, a half dozen other balloons started to inflate. Everywhere I looked billowing masses grew from the ground, jostled with each other for space, and surrounded me in a kaleidoscope of color.

Yuma Balloon Festival Liftoff

And then, in no discernible order, they began to lift off. One by one they floated skyward like brightly colored champagne bubbles.

Yuma Balloon Festival Balloons in Flight

For something so serene, the whole episode was surprisingly chaotic. There was simply too much to see. Balloons of different colors and designs, in different stages of liftoff, constantly changed their shape and position. The entire visible world ebbed and flowed along the contours of pillowy fabric.

Yuma Balloon Festival Balloon Flyover

Later, with everyone safely returned to earth and daylight waning, there was one final show. This time, tethered to the ground and in a completely organized manner, burners were fired and balloons set aglow.

Yuma Balloon Festival Glow


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22 Comments on “A Chaotic Kaleidoscope of Color”

  1. IshitaUnblogged January 28, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    It must have been such an awesome experience! Lovely:)


  2. denimfish January 28, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    What an amazing spectacle of colour!


  3. mairedubhtx January 28, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    What a riot of color! This must have been really spectacular to see.


  4. Lady Lapidary January 28, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Love the pictures!


  5. wildramp January 28, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I visited a much smaller balloon festival in Connecticut years ago and would love to get to one of the large ones!


  6. John January 28, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Beautiful work!!


  7. edithlevyphotography January 28, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Gorgeous set of images. I love the last shot. The brilliant colors against the night sky is stunning.


  8. digger666 January 28, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Lucky Shannon and Brian. It was my thrill to witness the Albuquerque festival in 2003; by no stretch of the imagination is that the highlight of the local year.


  9. Karen January 28, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Great photos, guys! The nearest ballon festival to us is Bristol where one can get wonderful photos (weather permitting of course this is the UK!) over Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. http://www.photographersdirect.com/buyers/stockphoto.asp?imageid=3271942
    My mum(75th) and sis(50th) are having a balloon ride as their shared birthday treat this spring taking off over the Cotswolds – we’ll be going along to take photos but don’t reckon our camera is a effective as yours:)


  10. Jane Lurie January 28, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Love balloon fests and you’ve captured this one beautifully! Thanks for sharing such gorgeous colors!


  11. Touring NH January 28, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I’ve been to several balloon fests and “the Glow” is definitely my favorite part! Great photos and post!


  12. photographyartplus January 28, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Wonderful colors! Woww! Great pictures!


  13. Pat Bean January 28, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Color makes me happy. Thanks.


  14. Loni Found Herself January 28, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Gorgeous photos! Love all that glorious color!


  15. cstirbis1 January 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    These balloons are beautiful! They look like so much fun and so colorful I love it!


  16. belladonic haze January 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Gorgeous photos!


  17. Arizona girl January 29, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    I must go one of these years! It looks amazing!!


  18. kathibook January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Wow! ‘Champagne bubbles’…..love that! Thanks for showing me things I would not otherwise see!


  19. Emily January 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Wow! I want to go!


  20. kgrahamjourneys January 31, 2013 at 2:18 am #

    Really gorgeous photographs… love the colour!


  21. msdulce February 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    What beautifully vibrant pictures! I completely agree- I never think to consider regional festivals, but every time I accidentally happen into one during my travels, I’m so glad I did. This stop in Yuma seemed particularly serendipitous!



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