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Special shapes and colors take flight

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Mike Smith Photo. Scores of Artesia residents woke up at daybreak Saturday to witness the launch of multiple hot air balloons at Eagle Draw Saturday morning. Balloons and Tunes started Friday morning with Artesia elementary school kids getting an up close and personal demonstration.

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ARTESIA — An assistant principal at Yeso Elementary School may have said it best about last weekend’s Balloons and Tunes.

“It’s a great community event and it brings everyone together.”

Lynn Worley said that as the entire student body headed to class after watching David Chavez unveil a special shape hot air balloon.

Chavez was one of many hot air balloonists who inflated their airships Friday morning for elementary school kids in Artesia.

The community’s hot air balloon event is took place at Eagle Draw.

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Chavez with some help from his family, community folks and members of Faith Baptist Church in Artesia spent time unpacking his new ride around sunrise Friday morning.

“This will be its first inflation here in Artesia, we just barely got it (and) picked it up Tuesday,” he said.

Chavez, like many in New Mexico, grew up going to Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta.

“I was fascinated with them and intrigued with how they worked and operated,” he said.

Chavez said he was offered the chance to be part of a chase crew, “and from then, I was able to get my first flight from a pilot from Lovington and after that I was hooked.”

A few months after that, he bought his own balloon, “and I’ve been going forward ever since.”

Chavez said ballooning is a family sport. He said potential pilots have to take a written test and a flight test.

“Then you have minimum hours of training that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires and then you go through an FAA inspector,” he said.

He added that the feds also have to issue a final flight test before one flies solo.

The kids at Yeso Elementary got the chance to see Chavez and his crew inflate the balloon. They also had the chance to touch it and ask questions of Chavez and his passengers.

As an added treat, the kids and the entire community had a chance to see Chavez and his passengers fly off into the crisp Artesia autumn morning.