ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Women in ballooning are being celebrated as part of the Albuquerque Balloon Museum’s newest exhibit, “In their Words: Women on the Ground and in the Air.” The exhibit opened to the public on Saturday and features women throughout history and local women who have been part of ballooning.
The exhibit features first-hand accounts and personal objects from the many different women who have played critical roles in ballooning from the very beginning of the sport. Many local women were included in the project as well, like Barbara Fricke who began ballooning in the ’80s. She said she felt honored to be included amongst so many other women and gave advice to young girls hoping to get into the sport. “They need to remember that they can really do it. It doesn’t take brawn or big muscles. It takes a crew to fly a balloon, you can’t do it by yourself. You get your best friends and you go,” Fricke said.
Now Fricke gives back to the community by sharing her knowledge. She works with a local club that facilitates ground school and teaches students learning to be balloonists. Recently, she was appointed to be a designated pilot examiner and will examine people working to get their balloon certificate.
From April to June of last year, exhibition curator Rebecca Prinster began interviewing women for the project for it to open during Women’s History Month. She said she was amazed to hear each woman’s experience. “Especially during a pandemic, it was really life-affirming to hear these adventurous stories and the way these women built community around ballooning,” Prinster said.
Some of the recorded interviews Prinster got throughout this process are played in a tiny room with projected quotes from each story. She said one of the things that stuck with her was how welcoming each of the women have been to people who are interested in ballooning. “A lot of women got their start because someone asked them, ‘Hey do you want to take a ride? Jump in!’ So they kind of pay that forward,” Prinster said.
Near the entrance of the exhibit, stands a mural filled with faces and names of just a few of the female balloonists throughout history who made a major impact on the sport. Artist Haley Greenfeather English said while researching for this project, she was struck by how New Mexico has a unique perspective on ballooning. “We have access to so many balloons here, balloon history and balloon culture. There are people all around the world who still don’t know about ballooning, which surprised me because here in New Mexico, seeing a balloon is part of our morning ritual,” English said.
For mother-daughter duo Tami and Savannah Bradley, ballooning is a family affair. Savannah is a mechanical engineering student at New Mexico Tech and is a fourth-generation balloon pilot, something that started with her great grandfather that was passed down throughout the years. “I really want to show girls that they don’t have to hide what they’re good at, they don’t have to be scared to go out and do what they love. I hope they see that we were able to do it and know they can too,” Savannah said.