When students go to North Campus, they usually take the bus to go to Engineering or Music, Theatre & Dance classes. But yesterday, more than 150 people traveled on North Campus to take a hot air balloon ride 100 feet into the sky.

The hot air balloon festival was one of the first events launched by the Go North! Initiative, a new program developed by the Division of Student Affairs that aims to bring more students, events and excitement to North Campus. Yesterday’s event featured one tethered hot air balloon — provided by Renaissance Balloons, Inc. in Howell, Mich. — in which students and families from nearby Northwood Community Apartments could take a three-minute ride.

Elizabeth Zollweg, the project manager of Go North!, said the initiative’s mission is to attract more students to events, lectures and recreational activities to an area of the University not often frequented by the majority of the student body.

“You don’t have to go down to Central or South (Campus) — …there are really great, fun, new innovative things happening on North,” Zollweg said.

The program was launched partly in response to the larger population of students living on North Campus than in previous years, according to Zollweg.

“More freshmen were on North Campus last fall than ever before,” Zollweg said.

The Go North! Initiative started with the North Campus vibrancy committee, comprised of individuals from several entities of the University who came together to discuss ways to improve student life on North Campus. Zollweg said the initiative took into consideration student criticism from a forum in April called “The North Campus Rant: The Good, The Bad, and The Dude!” and used it to structure the initiative.

“From that qualitative feedback that we got from the students, we kind of created these subcommittees,” Zollweg said. “And each subcommittee is charged with providing events and outreach and programs.”

The Go North! Initiative is comprised of four subcommittees — programming, communications and marketing, services and transportation — that students can get involved in.

This semester, Go North! has organized many events to kick off the initiative, including UMix Rock the Night at Pierpont Commons, Blockbuster at the Belltower in which movies are shown on the North Campus Diag, a meet-and-greet for Jewish students hosted by the University of Michigan Hillel and a Countdown to Kickoff: Field Day event before the Notre Dame football game.

Nick Smith, assistant director for University Unions Arts & Programs and chair of the Go North! programming subcommittee, said the events and programs are designed to be innovative and exciting for students.

“The concept is really to provide ‘wow’ programming on North Campus that’s not only awesome for this campus but that’s going to draw students from Central to North,” Smith said. “Hopefully these opportunities start to create an inherent vibrancy or excitement to this campus.”

One of the events is Bonus Bus, in which students answer trivia questions about the University and pop-culture and receive prizes while on the bus to and from North Campus.

“It’s kind of like Go North! take on Cash Cab,” said Zollweg, referring to the TV game show that asks random cab riders trivia questions.

Some students stood in line for a few hours in the parking lot behind the Computer Science and Engineering Building — where the balloon lifted off. As they waited an hour for the wind to die down before the balloon could safely launch, students snacked on free cupcakes, popsicles and bubble tea.

LSA sophomore Kathryn Hohs, who heard about the hot air balloon festival through a University Twitter account, was drawn to the event because she wanted to take advantage of the unique opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon.

“I just thought it sounded really interesting because I’ve never been in a hot air balloon and it’s kind of always been something I wanted to do,” Hohs said.

She added that she doesn’t frequently go to North Campus and wouldn’t have gone had there not been the hot air balloon event.

“Personally, this is only like my second time on North Campus,” Hohs said. “I never had a reason to go last year, and I never really wanted to take the bus.”

Engineering freshman James Power, who lives in Bursley Residence Hall, said he thinks there has been a lack of organized activities on North Campus since he arrived at the University, but would welcome events in the future since they would be convenient for him to attend.

“If they have fun events like this, I’d definitely come because it’s hard to hike down to Central,” Power said. “It would be nice to have more stuff happening up here.”

— Daily Staff Reporter Zach Bergson and Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Steinberg contributed to this report.

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