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Colorful traditions highlight weekend

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The Nightlight balloon team piloted by J.J. Mancini takes to the skies early Saturday morning as other balloons prepare for flight or for display during the Rise Over Roswell Balloon Rally at the Russ Dekay Soccer Complex on North Grand Avenue. Balloons are due to take off around dawn today, weather permitting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Hot air balloons, spicy jalapenos and “caliente” dancing took over the Ross Dekay Soccer Complex this weekend for the annual Rise Over Roswell Balloon Rally and Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Two of the many members of Asi
Se Bailar Folklorico dancers entertain at the Cinco de Mayo festival Saturday afternoon. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

This is the second year the two events have combined, a joint effort of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

The balloon rally is a continuation of a tradition that began in Roswell in 1987 by the Old Timers’ Balloon Club. The Cinco de Mayo (May 5) celebration commemorating a Mexican Army victory has been held locally since 2015.

About 41 balloons from across New Mexico, and from Colorado and Arizona came for the Rise Over Roswell balloon event, which drew large crowds Saturday morning for the second day of the rally in spite of spotty weather above ground level that kept a number of the pilots from taking off. Many teams inflated their balloons to show visitors anyway.

A Northwesterner steals the jalapeno contest. Tia Curtin of Washington State, left, eats the most jalapenos in one minute. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

“I think it was very nice of them (to bring their balloons out) when they knew they might not be able to take off,” said Jay McGraa, a Southern California native who is visiting family in Roswell for about a week with his wife, Tish. They brought their two granddaughters to Saturday’s balloon event.

He added that his granddaughters were able to get in one of the baskets and try the flares and controls, and the girls indicated that they had enjoyed the experience.

Roswell residents and visitors have another chance early this morning to see the balloons. Weather permitting, teams will lift off from the soccer complex on North Grand Avenue across from the Wool Bowl about 6:30 a.m. A prayer and the National Anthem will occur starting at 6 a.m.

The Cinco de Mayo festivities Saturday included Folklorico dancing, music performances by bands and vendors offering food, kids’ activities, crafts and memorabilia. The Hispano Chamber also organized a taco- and jalapeno-eating contest. Just Rodriquez won the taco contest, being the first to consume 10. Tia Curtin of Washington State pulled off a surprise win in the jalapeno contest, eating the most jalapenos, a full 3, in 60 seconds, although others came close. Both winners received $50 gift certificates from Los Cerritos Mexican Kitchen.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.