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Solomon Rimmer, an Inez Science and Technology Magnet School second-grader, is a hot air balloon fanatic.
As a crew unfurled a yellow, blue, purple and pink-striped balloon at his school Friday morning, Rimmer and his brother Gabriel, who hadn’t even seen one inflate before then, were champing at the bit to go for a ride.
“I really want to get on,” Solomon said. “If they don’t let us, they’re mean,” Gabriel added.
Much to their dismay, the balloon remained firmly tethered on the ground. But, even that provided a thrill for Gabriel, who made a game of getting as close as possible to the balloon as it inflated and then scampering away.
The Rimmers were among hundreds of Inez students and their families who rose early to gather around the balloon, which was inflated as part of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s annual tradition of bringing balloons into the backyards of local students.
Overall, about 179 balloons were inflated at about 116 schools in and around Albuquerque, according to a preliminary schedule.
“We’re here for the kids,” pilot Bubba Waner said. “A lot of kids don’t get to go to Fiesta … they’re not going to get up close to the balloons, they’re not going to be able to interact.”
Named for its vibrant, gum-resembling colors, as well as its pilot, Waner’s balloon is called “Hubbabubba.” But that’s no longer to be confused with the bubblegum itself, since students got in trouble for chewing it in class when Waner used to hand it out.
Still, the balloon’s reference to bubblegum proved a draw for such students as King Maes, who was otherwise leery about the general idea of getting into the hot air balloon.
“I don’t like being in heights,” the 5-year-old said.
Zedekiah Peoples-Lewis, a fourth-grader at Inez, was of a like mind, saying he had no intention of getting into the balloon and was just fine staying on land where he belonged.
“I am terrified of those heights,” he said.
Hubbabubba’s inflation, part of the Albuquerque Aloft event, was something of a special occasion this year, according to Principal Casey Reid-Kadlec.
While this isn’t the first year there’s been a hot air balloon at Inez since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time the school has been able to have the event without the shadow of social distancing, masks and other pandemic precautions.
“We’re finally back to normal,” Reid-Kadlec said, adding that her students were “super excited” to be back.