Cheryl’s fascination with Albuquerque’s ballooning community began the year she moved to the Duke City and couldn’t avoid stopping to snap a few photos of the balloons she saw on her daily commute to work. Over three decades later, she’s still captivated by the iconic aircrafts and has since served in a variety of capacities leading up to her present role as board member.
In this month's Inside the Basket, Cheryl offers her advice for making the most of your visit and explains why tossing a hula-hoop from a hot-air balloon ended up becoming her favorite Balloon Fiesta memory.
Give a brief overview of your background and how you became involved with Balloon Fiesta.
When I first moved to Albuquerque in 1974, I was entranced by the balloons flying overhead and would stop to take pictures of them on my way to work. Within a few years, I had married into a ballooning family and had spent a year and a half flying a commercial balloon around the country for Sid Cutter's World Balloon Corporation. Balloon Fiesta was "the thing to do" as a balloonist in Albuquerque and in 1990 I began to give back to it as a safety official, leading to roles as Assistant Balloonmeister, Balloonmeister, and as a member of the Board of Directors.
What is your favorite part about being involved with the organization and the event?
Believe it or not, I'm fascinated with the business side of running the operation such as the financial aspects, strategic planning for future growth and development, and planning for special events such as our 50th anniversary in 2021. It's also gratifying to see the effects of changes and upgrades each year, because we are always looking for ways to improve on the experiences of our pilots, crews, volunteers, sponsors and guests.
What is your favorite memory from a past Balloon Fiesta?
That's a tough one, because there have been so many! I guess it would have to be the exhilaration I felt when I won first place in a ring-toss sometime in the 1980's. A large, inflatable beer bottle was the target on the field, and each pilot was given a hula-hoop. I took off at least a mile away and then flew over the bottle just perfectly to win first place. Balloon competitions have never held much interest for me, but if I should accidentally fly over the target, then for sure I will make an effort!
What advice can you give to visitors who have never experienced the event?
Put the camera down. Yes of course, take some pictures. But a few months later, how often will you look at those pictures? The memories, the visuals, the experiences of sight and sound ... those are what will be remembered. Walk among the balloons, look at the faces of the kids (of all ages) and feel the electricity running through the crowd.
Do you have a favorite balloon?
Ours, of course! And I've always been attracted to patriotic balloons that represent our country with the stars and stripes. What a tribute to this great country of ours that affords us such freedoms as to enjoy a balloon flight with friends and family anytime we like.