ALBUQUERQUE, September 21, 2010… In 2005, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Heritage Committee established the Heritage Pin, a limited-edition commemorative pin honoring pioneers of the sport of ballooning and, in particular, the Balloon Fiesta.
This year, the Committee is proud to honor a man who has long been associated with this internationally famous ballooning event.
On April 8, 1972, Tom Rutherford helped launch the very first version of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Back then it was a hastily-arranged gathering in a vacant lot near the mall, attended by a grand total of 13 balloons. But 10,000 people showed up to see them race!
At that time, Tom Rutherford was an aspiring, young politician with a golden radio voice at radio station 770 KOB (now KKOB). When the station asked Sid Cutter to organize a balloon race as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Tom was assigned to assist with the “balloon” portion of the event. He fell in love with balloons and ballooning and joined Sid’s corporate and events promotion company, World Balloon Championships.
For many years, Tom flew balloons for corporate clients – most notably Budweiser – at events around the country. As Tom’s balloon career took off, his political career took off too. He served for 24 years in the New Mexico State Senate, and at the time of his retirement, was Majority Floor Leader. He subsequently served two terms on the Bernalillo County Commission, and now focuses his career on administrative law and government affairs. Tom remains active with the Balloon Fiesta and (with Glen Moyer) is one of its field announcers. He also acts as a TV color commentator and as emcee of many awards ceremonies and other events associated with Balloon Fiesta.
For more information, contact Kathie Leyendecker at 505-228-9874.