January 8, 2008 | This past weekend was the Ford Trucks Red, White, & Blue Polo and Balloon Festival in Indio. Balloon aficionados converge upon the Fantasy Springs casino, turning an overflow parking area into a launching/landing field. At the crack of dawn they fire up their flamethrowers, float in their balloons over to the polo grounds for a noon polo game, then return in the afternoon for more festivities and a "balloon glow" after dark.
I got up before the crack of stupid on Sunday to have a look. Although I had seen balloons in the air before, I had no idea what was involved in getting them up there. It's quite a production.
Most of the balloonists had a small utility trailer to carry the balloon and gondola basket in. They spread a big tarp out on the ground, then rolled out the balloon itself and attached it to the basket. Next, a generator-powered fan was used to blow air into the balloon and fluff it up, after which they fired up the flame throwers to fill the balloon with hot air.
There was every size and shape of balloon imaginable, including a Noah's ark, a pirate, a football, and supposedly the Energizer bunny, although it must have run out of energy because I didn't see it.
After about an hour most of the balloons had been inflated and seemed to be just hanging around waiting to all take off together. Alas, a wicked wind came down out of the mountains and began blowing the balloons into each other and dragging them willy-nilly across the ground. Immediately the balloons were brought back down, and everyone began packing up.
At that point I headed for home where it was warm, and dry, and hot coffee awaited.
Last updated on Aug 31, 2016