Inside the Basket - Keelie Garcia, Balloon Fiesta Navigator
Keelie Garcia is a long-time balloon enthusiast, but first time Balloon Fiesta Navigator. In this month’s Inside the Basket, we take a look at her new role with Balloon Fiesta and explore her favorite part of the event.
1. How did you become involved with Balloon Fiesta and why?
My passion for balloons started in the mid-‘80s while I was attending Gallup High School. One of my classes was asked to create and publish the Red Rock Balloon Rally’s program. I was lucky enough to get to ride in a balloon, crew, and hang out with the pilots. After high school, I continued to crew and help out as needed. Since that first time in high school, my love of balloons has never faded. I started with Balloon Fiesta after reviewing the United Way website for volunteer opportunities and saw a post looking for Navigators for this year’s Balloon Fiesta. I immediately completed the application, Kim responded the same day, and I was in. So happy I did!
2. 2018 was your first year as a Navigator, what was your favorite part?
It was such a joy meeting all the other hard working Navigators and staff of AIBF. Everyone was very helpful, kind, and fun. In the nine days I was involved, I made life-long friends and several “annual” friends I look forward to seeing again next year. I wholly jumped into my first year and volunteered for every weekday morning shift and every weekend morning and evening shift. It was exhausting, but I would do it again in a heartbeat because of the other Navigators and Kim Judge. Their support and camaraderie was without boundaries.
3. What did you enjoy most about working at the Information Booth?
That’s a tough question because I absolutely loved everything about working the Information Booth. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and helping people from all over the world. It was fun to hear about where they were from and to compare the weather, scenery, and food of New Mexico to their home state or country. My favorite part was seeing and talking to the people who were first-timers. Young or old, they were so excited to see the balloons inflate and fly. Most of them could hardly begin to describe their joy. We agreed that it is impossible to accurately describe seeing those beautiful balloons; you definitely have to see them for yourself.
4. What advice would you give to guests planning to attend next year’s Balloon Fiesta?
For guests, I would suggest allowing yourself extra days to attend the Balloon Fiesta in case of bad weather. During one of my shifts, I met a father and daughter that flew from New York on Saturday, planned to see the balloons Sunday morning, and then fly back to New York Sunday afternoon. That day happened to be one of the two days the balloons did not fly and they were so disappointed. My heart broke for them.
5. What is your favorite hot air balloon?
That’s not a fair question, I love all of them! If I had to choose, it would be SpyDy. I love pigs and my grandsons love Spiderman, so it’s perfect!
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