More women pilots take flight at this weekend’s San Juan River Balloon Rally

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BLOOMFIELD, N.M. – The San Juan River Balloon Rally is back after a two-year break due to the pandemic.

This weekend, 21 hot air balloons from four different states will ascend to the sky.

San Juan River Balloon Rally Balloonmeister Doug Lenburg says the Four Corners is a unique place to fly.

“Our San Juan River Valley and our Animas River Valley, they have a special significance when you’re flying over the wildlife and you’re 100 feet off the ground,” Lenberg said.

15 years ago, Doug Lenburg started an event that would showcase the natural beauty of the Four Corners

“It was actually a dare. A young lady in Farmington said, ‘I dare you to start a balloon rally in Bloomfield,’ and I said I don’t know if the City of Bloomfield will want to do it,” Lenberg recalled.

But they did and now the San Juan River Balloon Rally is something the community looks forward to every year.

“I was just told last night by Andrew, the manager, owner of the Best Western, how important this event is for the Bloomfield community throughout the years – and not having it for the past couple of years has pretty much devastated the community,” Lenburg said.

After a two-year break, there have been a couple of changes. The biggest is that one-third of the pilots are women.

“Oh, we girls are going to take over the world, don’t you know,” added Debbi Waltman, a balloon pilot from northern Colorado.

For now, Waltman said this weekend is all about having a good time.

“We had a rough couple of years all across the world and it’s fun to see a town get back together and say we’re going to have some fun again!” Waltman said.

The balloons take flight at 6:30 a.m. However, there will be a Saturday evening Balloon Glow, where they will light up the night sky.