Carol Bair has been involved in ballooning ever since her husband showed an interest in the sport in the late 1970s. Interest from the entire family grew quickly and her husband and two sons became commercially rated balloon pilots and have participated in Balloon Fiesta for many years. Her role has evolved from crewing to her current role as a Navigator Leader, responsible for the Pilot Hospitality Pavilion.
She is also famous among pilots for the delicious waffle station she runs at the Balloon Fiesta Pilot Tent. We were lucky to catch up with Carol for this month’s Inside the Basket.
How long have you been involved with Balloon Fiesta?
All-in-all I have been a navigator for over 35 years (even before navigators were navigators).
How did you become involved with the Balloon Fiesta and why?
My first ‘official’ role with Balloon Fiesta was in the early 1980s when I helped the office staff with all sorts of activities; whatever came up, I was the flunky who helped with the solutions. From there I became the person in charge of crew assignments for the visiting pilots. After that I worked with the RVers to assign sites and help with any issues that arose. The next big assignment came when I took over management of the Pilot Hospitality Tent. I got involved because my family was involved and I wanted to be a part of such a fun event. Plus, I wanted to know what was going on.
What do you enjoy most about being involved with Balloon Fiesta?
I like working with a variety of people. The friendships that are formed seem to last a lifetime. In general Balloon Fiesta promotes a feeling of camaraderie and work turns to fun.
For someone who has never been, what would you say to convince them to come to Balloon Fiesta this year?
It is hard to describe in words so I just say come to Albuquerque and we will show you a good time. Some of the things that make Balloon Fiesta special are the many different activities: the exciting special shaped balloons, the excitement of a first balloon glow or Shape Rodeo. Allowing spectators on the launch field and in direct contact with the balloons and balloonists always adds a unique feeling and memorable experience.
How can first-timers make the most of their visit?
It is best to make contact with a specific balloonist and become part of the crew; become a participant rather than an observer. Opportunities such as Gondola Club or Chasers’ Club allow some better access and experiences as well. Don’t forget Main Street and the breakfast burritos.
If you could design a special shape balloon, what would it be and why?
It would be a Teddy Bear or something like that just to go along with our family name. However, I would be reluctant to do so. We have experienced participating with many special shapes . . . the work is hard but I know the visitors enjoy this aspect of Balloon Fiesta as much as anything.