Cherry on Top: UNM unveils first-ever hot air balloon

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico now has its own hot air balloon. The “Cherry on Top” balloon made its debut on campus Monday, ahead of the 51st Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

“I’ve been here for two years, and they’ve never done anything like this, and I think it’s really important for students who can’t go to Balloon Fiesta to bring it here to their home. I think it’s really beautiful,” said Julian Angel, a UNM student.

University leaders say this has been a long time coming. UNM partnered with Rainbow Ryders, which is an alumni-owned business.

“We were really excited that Rainbow Ryders made it possible, so we partnered with them, did a corporate sponsorship, and now we have a balloon,” says Ethan Rule, director of University Marketing at UNM.

While the balloon has already made its ground debut, it will soon take to the skies at this year’s Balloon Fiesta.

“It’s really nice to see that a university, especially in New Mexico, is being represented in an international festival, and it’s encouraging for those who come from this university to know that they can come and do big things,” says Bailey Rutherford, a UNM student.

The cherry red and turquoise balloon will not just be in the skies during Balloon Fiesta – the plan is to use it year round.

“This will be everywhere for people to see and for people to recognize the University of New Mexico,” said Garnett Stokes, UNM president.

Both university leaders and students say they hope that the balloon’s visibility will boost enrollment.