I arrived at Dawn on the first day for the Dawn Patrol which has a smaller number of balloons permitted to take off in darkness. The burners and colourful canopies roaring to life in the darkness is a spectacular sight. I described it as watching baby dragons wake up all snorting fire and noise.
Then the mass assent takes place as the sun rises with six or seven hundred balloons taking off and you can wander through them lending a hand when asked. It is so good natured and friendly without a hint of health and safety nonsense just sensible people having a good time.
Two things, apart from the balloons, spring to mind. At one point a grandmother had lost her grand-daughter in the crowd of 50,000. She was in a panic but a marshall got on the radio to the police who had her. A kindly visitor had handed her in. It was done so effortlessly it was a joy to watch.
The whole balloon festival is spectacularly well run from courtesy buggies to get you from the massive car parks to the gates. A lack of parking charges (normally $15 but I was never charged) to plenty of places to sit.
I had never been to a balloon event and this was the ultimate experience being among these giants in the New Mexico dawn.