One of the first balloons to inflate last Saturday morning at the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was Black Magic Woman, and in the basket controlling the flame was pilot Lori Van Sant.

As a female balloon pilot, Van Sant is in somewhat of a minority at the annual Fiesta. She said this was her 13th year attending and that she had been ballooning since July 2007.

Beside her as she rose above the park was an adjacent balloon piloted by her husband, Kurt Van Sant, a long-time balloonist. According to him, they had met through their mutual interest in ballooning and been married for three years.



As the sun came up, more and more balloons popped up all over the field. One of these — bouncing up and down as its crew tried to keep it on the ground — was manned by Karalynn Mumm, a balloonist from Nevada.

The bright yellow and orange balloon is named Citrus in the Sky. As it finally got clearance and took off from the grass, one of the crew members, Barbara Stinson, said that Mumm also worked with camps that were designed for young adult balloon enthusiasts.

According to Mumm’s pilot card, she considers hot air ballooning to be "the best reason EVER to set your alarm clocks!"

The thousands of attendees on the cold but clear Saturday morning must have agreed with her sentiment as they beat the sun to the field in time for the spectacular lift-off.

Emille Domschot is a freelance photographer at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @erdomschot