Special Shape Rodeos are the Fiesta days when the bulk of the participating balloonists fly hot air balloons with extraordinary character. Special-shaped balloon are usually as large as, if not larger than, standard hot air balloons. The delicate envelope, the part of the balloon with the personality, is designed with many, many intricate panels sewn together to create a gestalt of a whimsical and wonderful shape.
Who doesn’t love penguins?
Remember that Blue Sky animated movie production called “Rio?” It was a charming, fun movie. There was one balloon with three of its tropical bird characters attached back-to-back.
Pigs do fly. Except when it’s too windy. This day, some silly smiling hot air hogs were grounded.
It is sometimes the characters or characteristics of the shapes that help the owners find a name. Some others are tributes. I learned, for example that the balloon named Eddie & Rickenbacker is based on an aviation pioneer.
Edward “Eddie” Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 23, 1973) was called America’s Ace of Aces during World War I because he had achieved the most aerial victories over the Germans. He was a Medal of Honor recipient. By his own count, he survived 135 brushes with death. In his incredibly action-packed lifetime he was a race car driver, an automotive designer, a military advisor and air transportation pioneer. For many years he was the head of Eastern Air Lines.
Sometimes while the special shapes are being inflated, they sway and twist in fun juxtapositions. Belly bumps are not unheard of. In the photo below the two characters look like they are enjoying each other.
Here is one of this year’s new special shapes: a scuba diving seahorse. It wears a shell choker. I want to hug the owner. What a sense of humor!
There are thousands of people at Fiesta on the grassy field at any one time. If you are a child, taller adults often block you view of balloons on the ground as they fill with air or remain grounded. A lot of adults carry children on their backs or shoulders for an extra boost of height. Sometimes the only way small children get a good look at a hot air balloon that doesn’t launch into the sky is by riding on an adult’s shoulders.