America's Challenge Updates
Inside the Basket - Barry Conley, Balloon Fiesta Navigator
December 16, 2020
Barry Conley has been a Balloon Fiesta Navigator for 30 years. Though he started with a variety of procurement roles, he now helps the news media experience the magic of Balloon Fiesta, as part of the Balloon Fiesta Media Committee.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, we learn more about how he became involved in Balloon Fiesta, about his company’s role during the event and his favorite tips for first-time guests.
1. Give a brief overview of your Balloon Fiesta role.
My Balloon Fiesta role has changed over the last 30 years as Balloon Fiesta has changed. When I started out, we all pitched in on the basics. There was, and is, a lot to do to get ready for Balloon Fiesta but my main job once we were on the field was procurement, collecting food, water, dry goods and any other supplies needed. Recent years has found me doing what I can to support all the areas related to the Media Tent responsibilities. This ranges from making sure our audio/video equipment is working correctly, being ready at a moment's notice to shuttle media, their equipment and staff to their assigned location for that day or night of Balloon Fiesta, restocking the food and drinks for our hospitality area of the tent or manning that area and serving as a runner (getting the media folks out to the launch site for their media balloon ride to meet their pilot and crew members) for what is always an awesome experience at Balloon Fiesta. This has become my favorite reoccurring experience. There is nothing like seeing their excitement build as you are walking towards the launch site and the reality hits them that they are about to jump in a gondola and take off in the air and if you are really lucky you get to see them after the flight to hear all about it.
2. How did you become involved with Balloon Fiesta?
That is a funny story. In 1988 I set up an appointment with Jodie Baugh, who at that time and for many years to come was the head of Sponsor/Media Relations to sell her and Balloon Fiesta some advertising in the East Mountain Telegraph. The funny part was she sold me instead. She needed volunteers for the Sponsorship/Media Committee, but I was there to sell her. I tried to explain to her that I had just come to Albuquerque a few years earlier and had come to Balloon Fiesta just that past year. I told her further, that it had made such a profound impression on me that I never wanted to come back, the experience couldn't be topped and I would not want to spoil the memory. She laughed and assured me that I'd be so busy in the tent and trailer that there was no chance of spoiling the memory.
3. What is your favorite part about being involved with Balloon Fiesta’s Media Committee?
Well, it isn't the early mornings I can tell you that! No, hands down it is the people. My wife Kristi and I have been volunteering together for 30 years. Her thirtieth was to be this year and we have never met so many kind and interesting people, forged lifelong friendships with not just local media and sponsors, but folks from all over our state, country and the world. We now have friends in Japan, Holland, England, Germany...simply put "it's cool." It keeps us coming back, we look forward to taking care of these folks year after year and giving them a great experience and showing them the best of Albuquerque and New Mexico.
4. Your company is also involved with Balloon Fiesta. What does this relationship entail and why has it been important for your company?
Yes, we have been involved not just as a volunteer for all these years, but our business, It's All About Satellites/Sound Marketing Inc., has helped with audio/video support to Balloon Fiesta. Initially, we provided support in the Media Tent, then we grew to help in other areas of the field such as in the Sponsor Hospitality, Sponsor Tents, Pilots’ Tent/Sid Cutter Building and the Balloon Discovery Center. That led to us having a Tent right on Main Street selling DirecTV and Hi Speed Internet. Volunteering all those years gave us valuable insight to how things worked at Balloon Fiesta and all the business connections we have made through the years at Balloon Fiesta has helped us to grow and be successful.
5. What advice do you have for first-time Balloon Fiesta guests?
Have fun! This day will be unlike any other you've experienced, I promise. I'd be remiss if I didn't cover the basics: Get to bed early the night before, leave earlier than you think you should, dress in layers, wear your best walking shoes and socks and don't forget your electronics and extra batteries to capture it all. Lastly, be kind, courteous and patient to everyone around you. Spread a little love while you're here with us!