This rally wouldn't be nearly as much fun without snow and the gods were smiling on us because we had plenty of it. Friday night it even snowed some more to put fresh icing on the cake. Registration and check in was held for pilots, sponsors and snowmobilers Friday evening at the High Country Inn. The Inn provided great chili stew that warmed you right up. Pins and T-shirts were sold and everyone was encouraged to sign up for the drawings at the Saturday night dance, including crews. Most everyone departed shortly after the 9 PM briefing eagerly anticipating the next morning's flight.
Saturday's briefing took place at the "Y", the town's main intersection. The original plan was to launch from a field that had been prepared near the "Y". Unfortunately, getting into the field proved to be too difficult, even for 4-wheel vehicles because of deep snow. The idea was abandoned and pilots were instructed to fly from open areas around town. Launching was sporadic other than for the few balloons that made it onto the field and launched as a group. The breezes were blowing east towards the game refuge and that spelled trouble because there are few roads and limited access for snowmobilers. There was also some early fog that blew in and forced pilots to wait for clearing. About 10-15 balloons flew and the majority made their way north of town and into the open meadows where rescue by snowmobile was mandatory. Some pilots were close enough to the road to walk the balloon out but most had to deflate and cart the balloon in pieces back to the road via car hoods towed by the snowmobiles.
Tailgate parties, snowmobiling, skiing and a little gambling at the casino in Dulce were the primary activities for Saturday afternoon. Of course naps weren't to be discounted. All the fresh air, deep snow and high altitude contributed to some tired folks. Most, however were able to make it out to the Saturday night dance and dance the night away.
A glow was attempted Saturday night but the snow was a bit slushy after a warm and sunny day and most pilots opted not to try. Three balloons however did glow and attracted a number of town people. Sunday was next to perfect and it looked like all the pilots that had remained in town were able to launch. Pilots were able to make several hops if they chose to and consequently, many of the sponsors and even their friends were able to get rides. Once again pilots were instructed to launch from open areas in town. Upon initial launch, the winds were carrying everyone in a southerly direction but soon that changed and pilots were able to head north toward the open meadows. Pilots were able to stay up longer on Sunday and they made for a colorful sight over the town of Chama.
The rally balloonmeister was Sam Baxter with help from the "Adams Family" and Bruce Hale, assistant balloonmeister. The event can be deemed successful and already everyone is looking forward to next year's event. The town of Chama was a gracious host and went out of their way to support pilots and crew.
Chama is located in the northwestern part of New Mexico on US 84 near the Colorado border. It is the home of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad that runs in the summer and fall. Many outdoor activities are available including cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. For more information about Chama, contact the Chama Valley Chamber of Commerce at (505) 756-2306.