Nebraska’s tradition of releasing thousands of red balloons into the air after the first Husker Touchdown of every home game will not continue in 2012. The tradition began in the 1940’s when a student based woman’s group began selling red balloons on O Street
According to the Nebraska Athletic Department, a nationwide helium shortage is putting an end to the 70-year tradition. The athletic department still has leftover tanks from last year and may have 2000-2500 balloons for the home opener at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln against Southern Miss.
Nebraska’s helium provider does not have a supply and will not be able to replenish their supply until late-September or October. Even when the helium provider does replenish their supply the Huskers’ Touchdown Celebration rates relatively low on the priority list below hospital MRI machines and arc welders. It may be years before the areas helium reserves return to normal if ever.
Despite being the second most abundant element in the Universe, most of Earth’s helium bleeds off into space. The US produces %75 of the world’s helium. At current production rates of about 2 billion cubic feet per year, the American reservoir (from Texas to Kansas) could continue to produce helium for five to six more years. If you would like to read more about the nation’s helium supply click here.
Having visited Lincoln and witnessed the balloon tradition, I can attest to the child-like wonderment of watching thousands of red balloons float out of Memorial Stadium and I for one am saddened by the loss.