New Mexico man wins chance to lift off with Darth Vader

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – A very lucky New Mexico man got to do something very few people in the world get to do. He got to take a ride on the Darth Vader hot air balloon.

“Wow, this is really neat!” said Chris Hensley.

It was also very surprising for the 50-year-old man from Belen.

“That never crossed our minds that we would get drawn. It just didn’t,” Hensley said.

Hensley entered the contest to win a ride on the Darth Vader balloon during the Saint Patrick’s Balloon Rally in Belen. The raffle was put on by the Valencia Flying and Retrieval Society.

Hensley had a three in 150 chance of winning the balloon ride.

“I was going in to turn in my last tickets and my dad had said let’s buy three just to help out,” he said.

Hensley’s mom, Roberta, put her information on the raffle tickets.

“I filled it out and I thought why am I doing this?” said Roberta Hensley.

Roberta, 75, was one of the three winners to take a ride in the Darth Vader balloon in March.

“Then it was like okay, I have a decision to make,” Roberta said.

Roberta decided to give the once-in-a-lifetime balloon ride to her son, Chris.

“I’m just, I’m too old to go up in the balloon,” she said.

“It’s so rare. It’s a special treat,” Hensley said.

People at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta don’t even get to take a ride in the special shaped balloon.

“Oh, I am going to take a lot of pictures. I’ve got an extra camera for people to take video from the ground and I’m ready,” Hensley said.

Just as Hensley said he was ready he lifted off and into the sky to a place far, far away.

Hensley and his parents spent $25 on the three raffle tickets. He said this was his second time on a hot air balloon. His last ride was nearly 30-years-ago.

Roberta said she was happy to give up her ticket. She said she had a great time taking pictures of the event. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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