Monday, January 21, 2013
Balloon Fest 2013
Let me just start by saying that we love stuff like this. It's in my blood. As far back as I can remember my family has braved long forsaken highways to one road towns hours before dawn in search of the elusive "fest" promising such treasures as chili cookoffs, local arts and crafts, face painting, food trucks, vendor booths and of course whatever happens to be the feature of the so-called "fest". The focus being on the famed "fest" my family was never picky about the feature and we would occasionally forget it in preparation (which was only disastrous once when my sister dressed up for an alien-less alien festival and found herself the highlight of the 3 tractor "parade" with those in the parade stopping to take pictures of her).
So when we heard about Lake Havasu's 3rd annual Balloon Festival we hoped it would be a chance to make up for lost chili. (Unfortunately I was misled in the chili info but we were pleased to find a fry bread booth that more than made up for it.) We stayed overnight in Lake Havasu so that we could be at the launch site before dawn and see the first balloons go up. It was cold but not windy as crowds of people gathered around the balloons.
The first balloon to go up carried the US flag while some local talent belted out the Star Spangled Banner. These days we just celebrate if they manage to get all the lyrics and in the right order. Stella couldn’t quite get the concept of putting her right hand over her heart so she waved at the balloon/flag instead—I think that counts as patriotism for a 3yr old (though I would have questions about the mother who interrupted the ritual to take a picture).
After the Star Spangled Banner all the balloons on the field started to fill. Stella was hysterical. Her voice went up about 3 octaves (which put her at the same pitch as a normal 3yr old girl) as she screamed out to us every new balloon she saw.
After the ascension we had a great time participating in the festivities. There was a partially inflated balloon that we could walk around in, crafts, a kiddie train and face painting for the kids, a frisbee dog show (they’ve got nothing on Soda), dozens of local vendors and food trucks, air shows and lots of grass to just sit and watch the balloons float around.
I think the most surprising thing we saw at the festival was a family that we met in Bullhead earlier that week. You’d think that involving ourselves in a local church and having family in the area would establish friendships for us quickly but if you’ve ever been new to a town you know that’s rarely the case. While we have been welcomed to the church in general and to certain church events and groups we haven’t moved past the initial “welcome the newcomers” level with anyone besides my parents. I know this is normal but it sucks and last week was a particularly difficult week as we said good-bye to a reminder of how amazing our life in CA was (thanks again for the visit Gill family, it blessed us more than you could possibly know) and had a couple of rough experiences with being new in a group. The middle of last week found us miserable and lonely, longing for home and praying for local friends.
Anyway, enough whining. Back to the story: Wednesday night Abigail’s AWANA group won a contest and they each got a GC to McDonalds. Thursday being yet another windy day we took the girls to McDonalds for ice cream (compliments of Abigail) and indoor play. Soon after we got there a woman and her two girls came and all the girls played together well so we started talking with the woman who was later joined by her husband. We found out they were new—just stopping for a bit on their way to the bay area, actually—stuck inside because of the wind, and easy to talk with. So, being us, we invited them to join us for another play date the next day… which they came to! The kids played together for a couple of hours and we mentioned that we were going to the Balloon Festival and invited them to join us… and they did! The girls chased each other in the partially-inflated balloon, rode the kiddie train together, did crafts, got hurt feelings, etc. and we all walked around talking and chasing one kid or another. It was such a surprise and such a blessing of fellowship, however short-lived the friendship might be. Overall the Balloon Festival was amazing and if we’re here this time next year we plan to go again. The kids loved it more than we expected showing that the “fest” crazed blood runs in their veins too.