Better late than never, my response to last week’s prompt, New Dawn: How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late…).
It is 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. My husband and I hurriedly dress in jeans and cozy sweaters. We pour hot coffee into travel mugs and drive across town. We are late.
Our sunrise visions today: floating chili peppers, a waving pink cat, kissing goldfish. A glorious rosy sunrise to the east silhouettes these delicate behemoths. Children clad in fleece pajamas drag their bleary-eyed parents, darting between rising balloons and pointing upward to the skies.
A couple pauses to snap a photo of flames from a gas burner. A group of university students, wrapped in wool blankets, huddle over steaming cups of cocoa. A woman cheerily waves a half-empty champagne bottle at passersby. A rattan basket rises from the ground, bearing its pilot aloft as the crowd claps and cheers. This is the fall weekend for one of my favorite hometown events, the Great Reno Balloon Races, one of the largest hot air balloon rallies in the country.
As the sun rises, we walk on a damp grassy field, dodging tether ropes, as balloons of all colors and shapes rise from the ground around us. We have arrived too late for the Dawn Patrol, when a handful of balloons take to the sky, glowing and twinkling in the predawn dark. We have come for the Mass Ascension, a name that conjures images of religious ceremony and miracles. And that is how this spectacle feels, as a hundred balloons take shape and float above our heads. It is a celebration of the miracle of flight, a tradition that dates back centuries.