[97/100 Strangers] Cocoa

I met Stranger 97/100 at the 2016 AIBF.

Stranger 97/100 is a cosmetologist from Barstow, California; midway between Los Angeles, CA and Las Vegas, NV.

“My name is Cocoa, just like the chocolate,” she said, during our introductions to each other.

We met after several hours of early morning viewing of special shaped hot-air balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF). This Fiesta was her first, and it was her first visit to Albuquerque. It was October 6, 2016.

It had been more than 30 minutes since the ending of the mass ascension. We stood on the “Main Street,” a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with food and momento vendors. I asked Cocoa to stand in front of a white tent for a distraction-free view of her incredible eyes and color accented hair.

She was giggling when I met her. Cocoa had a lovely style and her make-up was applied meticulously. To be honest, I was astounded at how well she perfected her makeup this casual spectator event. She would have had to “put on her face” by 3 AM, before heading to the grassy field for the early morning launch. That’s dedication to her craft.

After looking upwards into the sky to enjoy colorful hot-air balloons, it’s equally compelling to rest one’s eyes on event spectators. The event provides many opportunities to watch people and capture candid moments of joy and wonder. There are so many happy people to meet, and so many who will graciously agree to a stranger portrait.

As I consider this specific portrait from nearly 4 years ago, I am wondering about this upcoming October.  By then will the need for severe social distancing be relaxed? Tickets are on sale for the upcoming Fiesta, October 3-11th, 2020.

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