ALBUQUERQUE — Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Ride Company held a 40th anniversary celebration with business and community leaders, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta leadership as well as Visit ABQ leadership to look back on 40 years of hot air ballooning in Albuquerque and the impact the company has had on Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole.
As Rainbow Ryders has grown, so has hot air ballooning in the region; and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta continues to be the largest event in New Mexico.
Rainbow Ryders founder Scott Appelman started the company in 1983 after graduating from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management with one balloon. Today, the company is the largest hot air balloon company in the U.S. with a fleet of 47 balloons, and offices in Albuquerque, Phoenix and Colorado Springs.
Additionally, the company produces the annual Labor Day Lift Off in Colorado Springs, several events in the Phoenix area and flies a fleet of corporate sponsored balloons year-round. The company roster has grown from sole proprietor Appelman to a team of 50 employees and over 200 people seasonally. The company is a leader in the industry with the highest safety standards including random alcohol and drug testing of all pilots and employees, as well as requiring all pilots to have 2nd class medical testing and annual flight reviews.
“As we look back on 40 years of hot air ballooning, I am so grateful to our guests, my staff, and the support of so many partners for four decades of adventure,” Appelman said. “I am so proud of the role that Rainbow Ryders has played on the lives of so many and in the expansion of the hot air balloon industry. I look forward to seeing what is on the horizon for the industry in the next 40 years.”
“Albuquerque is known as the Hot Air Ballooning Capital of the World, and Rainbow Ryders’s legacy has definitely contributed to this recognition,” said Tania Armenta, President and CEO of Visit Albuquerque. “The dedication, hospitality and award-winning service put forth by founder and president Scott Appelman and the whole Rainbow Ryders team has helped to elevate the city’s reputation as the top destination to experience hot air ballooning and has added to the longstanding success of the city’s signature event – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I, along with the entire Visit Albuquerque board and team, congratulate Scott and his staff on 40 years of providing bucket-list experiences and going above and beyond for their customers.”
Rainbow Ryders has flown more than 800,000 passengers encompassing more than 125,000 hours of flight time. In addition to their annual exclusive participation in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the company offers corporate and private events to ride in a hot air balloon. The company flies for many well-known names in the region including XX Dos Equis, Intel, Xfinity, UNM, City of Albuquerque, General Mills and Ocean Spray to name a few. Rainbow Ryders also owns and flies new Visit ABQ and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center hot air balloons. Lastly, Rainbow Ryders has been the official hot air balloon ride vendor for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every year for the last 25 years.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that Rainbow Ryders has become a national safety leader for hot air ballooning around the country and has contributed to several new regulations and safety procedures in the ballooning industry,” Appelman added. “I look at it as my legacy to make sure the safety and health and vitality of the industry long survive me.”