Created: October 11, 2020 06:13 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The easily distinguishable Smokey Bear hot air balloon took flight for this year's Balloon Siesta, but will likely be retired for the rest of this year unless there’s a dramatic change in COVID-19 restrictions.
"And when we see him at rallies or Balloon Fiesta, he doesn't go away into storage,” said Robyn Hill, a volunteer with the Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon nonprofit.
“He actually hits the road and he goes all over the country—east coast to west coast,” she added.
According to Hill, the group was hoping to raise enough money this year to purchase another envelope for the balloon, but that didn’t happen because they haven’t been able to travel.
"We have to buy a new balloon. It's not an option,” Hill said.
The current balloon was bought after the previous balloon crashed into a pole.
Usually, the group would be busy at Balloon Fiesta selling Smokey Bear balloon merchandise. However, without this year’s event, they won’t be able to hit their mark.
"Maybe 2021 is the year we get back out there and start raising that money," Hill said.
Hill said the current balloon only has a few years left.
In the meantime, supporters can donate or shop on the nonprofit’s website.
For more information or to donate, visit smokeybearballoon.org.
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