Inside the Basket - Denise Winn, Balloon Fiesta Navigator
Denise Winn is a Balloon Fiesta Navigator who has been involved with the event since 1986.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Denise explains how volunteering at Balloon Fiesta has created an opportunity to create memories with her family and meet friends from around the world.
1. Give a brief overview of your Balloon Fiesta role.
I have been a volunteer with the Media Committee since 1993. I assist the media committee by providing information to the various visiting media representatives on the events of the day as well as information from the daily pilot briefing. I also escort media teams to their balloon rides and assist them on the field during competition events and mass ascensions.
2. How did you become involved with Balloon Fiesta?
I attended my first Balloon Fiesta, as a spectator, in 1985 and was instantly enamored with the event and ballooning. After moving to Albuquerque in 1986, I started working field events with KGSW (now KASA) and then worked with the production team at KOAT broadcasting from Balloon Fiesta from 1989-1992. After leaving KOAT I was invited to join the Media & Sponsorship Committee by Jodi Baugh and have truly enjoyed volunteering with the Balloon Fiesta Media Committee working with Jodi, Nathan James, Kathie Leyendecker and Tom Garrity ever since.
3. Volunteering at Balloon Fiesta has become an experience that you share with your family members. How did this tradition come about and what does it mean to you to have these types of memories with them?
Every year my entire family volunteers with the media committee in one way or another. My children, Dylan & Rachel, have literally grown up on the Balloon Fiesta field. As youngsters, they were welcomed by Fiesta staff, the ballooning community and visiting media with open arms and learned from hands-on experience what it takes to put on an event the size of Balloon Fiesta. From welcoming visiting media as youngsters, to setting up the Media tent and assembling media packets, from restocking the snacks, to escorting media teams to their balloon rides as teenagers, you can always find a “Media Munchkin” (A title given to them from former Media Spokesperson, Kathie Leyendecker.) on the field or in the Media Tent at some point during the event. My husband, Mark, also joins in the fun. My family has made so many lifelong friends at Balloon Fiesta, from Balloon Fiesta staff, balloon pilots & crew and visiting media. My kids have learned so much from being at Balloon Fiesta basically from birth. From the traditions of ballooning and the history of Balloon Fiesta, to the science of weather and balloon flight, from the safety of launch and landing to the ins and outs of media, they have taken it all in and are now, as young adults, sharing the wonders of Balloon Fiesta with their friends out of state and thanks to social media, friends worldwide. They can’t imagine a world without Balloon Fiesta and I’m so grateful for all the wonderful memories we’ve made and will continue to make in the years to come. There’s never a question where the Winn family can be found at the beginning of October!
4. What is your favorite part about being involved with Balloon Fiesta's Media Committee?
My favorite part of being involved with the Media Committee is getting to work with the other members of the committee. Needless to say, we’ve made MANY fun memories over the years. They are a great group of people! Getting to spend nine days, every year, dark & early, late evenings too, rain, wind or snow, helping media from all over the world is an experience I can’t imagine sharing with any other group. I also enjoy catching up with the media regulars year after year! It’s great to see old friends and make new friends as well.
5. What advice do you have for first-time guests?
Plan on arriving dark and early, dress in layers, wear comfortable shoes and just have fun and take it all in!
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