Christmas came a little early for Rose Artemis this year – two months early in fact at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
For Rose, her dream was to ride in a hot air balloon. And well, as New Mexicans know – we have a lot of those. You might say Rose’s dream was a wish of a lifetime.
Wish of a Lifetime, an affiliate of AARP, seeks to change the way society views and values older individuals by fulfilling their dreams and sharing their stories to inspire people of all ages.
Rose had always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon but never imagined it would come true. The coordinator at her apartment complex told her about Wish of a Lifetime and as soon as Rose turned 65 her wish was nominated.
Wishes can be submitted by anyone on behalf of adults ages 65+ through an online form. The wishes then go through a review and qualification process to determine if a wish can be fulfilled. Rose’s wish was approved but then she ran into a roadblock as illness kept her from getting the chance to soar in the Spring.
But that roadblock created a new opportunity as they sometimes do. She now had the opportunity to visit New Mexico and attend the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the first week of October. The balloon fiesta was also a stop for the AARP Block Party, bringing fun and information through games for attendees, members and their families.
“When they asked if I’d be open to going to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival – I was like what? Are you kidding me? Yeah,” Rose said. “That is something I never dreamed I’d be able to do. I was so excited.”
“I have wanted to go on a balloon ride ever since I was 7 years old. There is something about the freedom of it, the colors. The stillness of the balloons yet they’re moving. They’re beautiful,” she said.
Rose’s day that first Saturday morning began early with her leaving for the fiesta park around 4:30 a.m. She arrived at the field already filled with colorful balloon envelopes filling up for the first phase of the Mass Ascension, where close to 600 balloons would soon fill the cool New Mexico skies-- perfect weather for flying on this fall day. Crowds of people filled every available space as this was the first fiesta since COVID-19 restrictions had been fully lifted and people were feeling more comfortable about getting out.
Under the careful piloting of Curt Godlevsky, who flies the AARP sponsored balloon Sunwalker, Rose soon found herself in the woven basket, the burner above her head filling the colorful yellow and red envelope with hot air. A Zebra, the event officials who coordinate takeoff and are named for their black and white jerseys, came to the balloon to say it’s time to go. Slowly the balloon began to lift off and was soon a colorful spot among the heavens.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. It just felt wonderful. I absolutely loved it. I’d stay up there if I could. It’s serenity. It’s freeing. You are floating in air without wings. You still have something underneath your feet but really there’s not. You’re just out there and it’s open and I love that. It just seems magical,” Rose said.
But alas what goes up must come down and about an hour later, Rose returned to the ground, anxious to share her experience at the AARP Block Party booth.
Rose has struggled throughout her life and things have often not been easy. When you experience that kind of hardship you sometime don’t believe that you are deserving of the good that life has to offer. But it is because of Rose’s triumphs over those hard times that she was in-part selected.
“I don’t feel worthy of this. I am beyond grateful. There are no words for this. I am humbled by everyone’s efforts on my behalf. I have dreamed of doing this my whole life. It has been wonderful,” she said.
For more information on Wish of Lifetime or to nominate an older adult visit https://wishofalifetime.org/