The Lake Havasu hot air balloon festival

The last time I had been in Lake Havasu was when MTV still did live spring break parties. I don’t remember much of that trip in the mid 1990’s. Decades later I hear that the city has an annual hot air balloon festival, so I plan a winters road trip to check it out.

I enjoy some hot soup and a cold beer under the infamous London Bridge. The festival itself is kind of a bust, at least for me. It is tailored more for family fun, with carnival rides and touristy shopping. I choose instead to wander along the lake shore, reacquainting myself with the city.

Near the end of the day as I’m watching the sunset, I hear that if the wind doesn’t pick up in the morning, the balloons will rise with the sun. I rise at 4 a.m. to get a spot in the center of the London Bridge. It’s a brutal 34 degrees outside and I have no gloves.

I stare intently out at the open water, wondering if any balloons will rise so that this trip isn’t a complete bust. My coffee has frozen on the bridge, my fingers are numb and blueish. Then, suddenly, I believe I see the slow rise of something in the distance…..

The empty blue sky quickly becomes filled with colorful balloons of all shapes and sizes. Some try to lower their basket to actually touch the water before climbing back into the sky (this feat has an actual name to it, but I can’t recall what it was).

The people manning the balloons come extremely close to those of us on the bridge as they pass overhead. The fires roars loudly from within.

As the sky fills up, the festival turns into a magical experience for everyone on the bridge that morning, the cold of the winter morn disappearing, replaced with a child’s wonder.

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?

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