Melissa Bond, a pilot and Balloon Fiesta volunteer, was the 2017 Assistant Balloonmeister.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Melissa shares her ballooning experience and her love for the sport. Additionally, celebrating her 25th year as a Balloon Fiesta navigator, she reveals her journey to Balloon Fiesta’s Assistant Balloonmeister.
1. Give a brief description of your ballooning background and how you became involved with Balloon Fiesta.
My ballooning background started when I worked for a local financial institution and they had a fleet of balloons. I started crewing for the financial institution and as some would say, fell in love with ballooning. I continued to crew and get more involved with the fleet of balloons. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn to fly. I had several mentors who would give me instruction for my private and then my commercial license.
During this time, I started volunteering for Balloon Fiesta. A friend, who at the time worked for Fiesta, asked if I could help check in the merchandise that was coming in the office. I then learned to engrave the Balloon Fiesta name tags and did this for many years. I was invited to join the Safety team in 2000. In which, I was a safety official and continued to assist where needed. I have had many mentors during the years, and have enjoyed learning from them all. It is really an honor to be Assistant Balloonmeister this year.
2. What makes the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta unique to you?
What makes Balloon Fiesta special to me, is that this large group of friends, most of us call it a "family" come from around the world and spend the time enjoying the fellowship, flying and of course our food. With the fellowship of friends, flying and food here in Albuquerque, memories are made yearly. Watching the pilots working the "Albuquerque box" for their spot on the targets is amazing.
3. What is your favorite Balloon Fiesta memory?
A memory that really stands out is having Sid Cutter endorse my private license. I watched Mr. Cutter compete locally and nationally. Albuquerque has a competition called the Sid Cutter Memorial in which a boat is a part of the target. Most of the balloonists remember Mr. Cutter competing in this task in Iowa. I love watching the pilots compete just as Mr. Cutter did years ago. It is truly amazing how Balloon Fiesta has grown in the last 46 years from a vision Sid had.
4. What is most exciting about being assistant Balloonmeister?
What is really exciting is that this is my 25th year as a Navigator (volunteer) and I am Assistant Balloonmeister. I work with a team that is devoted to the safety of the sport.