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Balloon HQ news for January, 2000

Extra, Extra, read all about it! This is the BHQ newsletter with updates, pointers, current discussions, industry announcements, and anything else worth sharing with the balloon industry.

The latest article in this series will always be available at http://www.balloonhq.com/bhqnews.

This issue of Balloon HQ News contains the following topics:

Editor's notes

Change is one of those things that can be fun to look forward to. But halfway through, six-letter "change" starts looking more and more like that four-letter word, "work." We know this because we spent our holidays working hard to make a lot of behind the scenes changes to BHQ to provide better performance and powerful new features for all of you.

"So what exactly changed?" I hear you asking. Well, the huge amount of traffic (not a complaint!) and a computer that was several years old forced us to upgrade to a new server. The bulk of the upgrading occurred during December, with some cleanup work happening in early January. A few people asked if any of it had to do with Y2K. In an indirect fashion, yes it did. All of BHQ's custom software was Y2K compliant over a year ago. However the system we were running on wasn't. Since we already had plans to buy our own server, this wasn't a concern... it just gave us a deadline that we dared not miss.

The biggest change you'll notice now that we have our own server and greater bandwidth is that many things run much faster. Most people have reported much faster loading of web pages and fewer problems connecting at the busiest times. Email gets distributed faster. My favorite improvement, the new search engine, is partially a result of improved hardware, and partially the result of better software. Searching of the site has improved drastically. The search interface is easier for most people to use, and the time to search has been reduced to almost the amount of time it takes to load a normal web page. I expect everyone will find it easier to find things on BHQ. If a tutorial is needed, let me know. I encourage everyone to check it out.

Stand back, construction in progress

Overall, I'm thrilled with the progress we've made and all the advances that have been possible on BHQ in the last couple of months. I want to thank those people that took the time to report teething problems they observed during the first few hours we were up and running on the new machine. Your feedback is a necessary part of running this site. If you experience any problems with the BHQ web site or mailing list, especially if it's something that used to work, please let us know by writing to BHQ-Admin@BalloonHQ.com. We want to hear from you.

Upcoming events mentioned on the lists

IBAC

IBAC 2000 will be held from March 1 - 5, 2000 at the Riveria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The IBAC number is: 1-800-458-4222. International delegates call: 614-840-0868. If you have attended before you should have received a registration packet automatically. If not, you need to call and request one. RUN, do not walk to the phone and get one. This is a GREAT opportunity for balloonists of all skill levels. It's getting close, but it's not too late to register. more info

Las Vegas Gift Expo

The Las Vegas Gift Expo is being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center during IBAC. It runs from Feb. 27 thru Mar 2. You can get the information by calling 800-421-4511. You can also access their web site at www.merchandisegroup.com. The Las Vegas Convention Center isn't too far from the Riviera Hotel, so many people attending IBAC may also find this a worthwhile event.

Twist & Shout

Only one event in the balloon industry this year will have the same impact on balloon twisters as IBAC has on balloon decorators. That's Twist & Shout 2000, running Feb 4-6 in Boston, MA. Instructors include Marvin Hardy, Larry Moss, Royal Sorell, Ken Stillman, Ralph Dewey, Patrick Brown and with all the jams we expect to have going on, just about anyone else that wants to teach. Registration info and forms can be found at www.balloondesigns.com or at www.balloonhq.com. You can fax your info to 978-531-5353. Click here for more info

Millennium Jam

Just so no one thinks the Americans have cornered the market on balloon seminars, IBS, a Belgium based distributor, has organized the Millennium Jam for this coming June 6-8. Instructors include Larry Moss, Ken Stillman, Ralph Dewey, David Bartlett, Gerry Giovinco, Royal Sorell, Arthur Tivoli and Atchoum, Bidou, Marvin Hardy, Patrick Brown. Stage acts will be performed by Stef and Ief, Bidou, Atchoum, Flash, and possibly others. In addition to the usual convention activities, a world record attempt will be made for largest balloon sculpture using predominantly non-round balloons. more info

More information about some of these events and an updated listing can be found at http://www.balloonhq.com/events.html.

Industry Spotlight

This month we've been featuring Y2K bug photos on the Balloon HQ home page. If you haven't seen them yet, check them out.

Also, we've put all the photos that have graced the BHQ home page in one place. If you enjoyed a past feature or if you missed a month, you may access a link for past features at the top of the Feature Photos information page, or go there directly: http://www.balloonhq.com/feature.html

To everyone else that contributes images to the Balloon HQ photo gallery I thought I'd share some insights into the qualities that go into selection of the monthly Feature Photos.

Convention Reviews

A number of convention reviews have been posted over the last few months. By keeping everyone informed of the various things going on, maybe we can tempt some of the newer members of the industry to attend.

Note that the additional information provided after each brief blurb may contain reviews in the words of people that attended those events, or photos that have been provided.

Euro Jam

Euro Jam '99 turned out to be a fun experience for many balloon twisters throughout Europe. 150 people used 55000 balloons in 3 days ... and let me assure you, those 55,000 balloons were properly used. more info

Western Region Clown Association

Among twisters, the Western Region Clown Association is well-known. While a clown organization officially puts it on, a huge cluster of balloon artists take part. In fact, from what I saw, the twister classes were better attended than the clown classes scheduled at the same time. more info

The All Star Revue

The All Star Revue was an educational seminar for balloon, party and event professionals, held November 14-17, 1999 at the Crowne Plaza Meadowlands Hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey, just minutes from New York City and the Newark Airport. We don't have reviews to share, but as an attendee, I had a great time and want to encourage people to attend next year. It's not as big and grand as IBAC. But that's the idea. The goal isn't to compete with IBAC. It's to offer a smaller scale, more intimate environment where instructors and students actually get to know each other and work together. more info

Cruising & Ballooning

What can we say. A floating convention was big talk on BHQ, both before and after the event took place. There's no better way to do business than in an environment where you can have fun at the same time. Rather than try to talk about something I didn't attend, take a look at some of the things that others had to say. more info

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Last time we sent one of these things out, I asked for feedback on the usefulness of the BHQ News newsletter. I still received fewer responses than I had expected, but those of you that did answer, for the most part, were very insistent that it continue. One person threatened physical violence on others if we canned it. Another person suggested that life wouldn't be worth living if this silly industry newsletter went away. I don't quite believe those people, but the message was certainly clear enough: Keep writing.

Some people said they liked it as a way to keep up on the things that have happened over the last month since it's sometimes hard to follow discussions on a daily basis. Others said they want to know what's happening on the twister or decorator side of the industry since they only follow one of them on a daily basis. What surprised me most was the number of people that said they print out each issue. Some folks said they like keeping the printouts within reach of their balloon supplies. I've always had the belief that the best way to keep the BHQ information available was online in a searchable archive. But, I'm not going to argue with what works for you.

There were a few people that took the time to offer suggestions. I'm very grateful for that. The overwhelming response was that if we were to change anything, it should be the length. While a few people said they read every word, most thought that shortening it to either key items that came up or creating a more concise summary would be better. We'll see what we can do. Writing summaries is hard since we don't have a person we can devote to compiling and writing these summaries. Over time, maybe we'll be able to find a solution. A couple people actually suggested that we only send the newsletter to paid members of Balloon HQ. That would allow us to devote more time to writing.

We have concluded that to make things easier, we should stop mailing out the newsletter and instead just mail an announcement that the new one is available and include a pointer to where it can be found on the web. This way, people on AOL who have trouble receiving very large email messages, won't. We may eventually even start including images this way. Finally, it's also a lot easier to skip around to the things that interest you. As you can see, we're trying all of this now with this, our first web-only newsletter. Let us know what you think.

Some of the people that have written recently offered not only suggestions for the newsletter, but general suggestions for BHQ. It has always amused me how we can go a long time with no one asking for a particular thing and then I receive mail from several people in a single week about that thing. For example, the topic that's come up this week is video. We have some video on the site, but we've kept it to a minimum. All of a sudden, more people are asking for ballooning videos online. I take that to mean that high speed Internet connections are becoming commonplace for more people. Rest assured, streaming video is on the way. I can't give a date that you can expect it, but it's definitely coming. I have the software. I've started testing. I just have to come up with the content. The first thing up will probably be footage from some convention or another.

By the way, has anybody else noticed how cosmopolitan the list has become? Just in regular list subscribers, we have people from:

Antigua, Germany, Switzerland, Bermuda, Denmark, Gibraltar, Argentina, Brazil, Austria, Israel, Australia, Sweden, Spain, Phillipines, France, The Netherlands, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, Norway, Italy, United Kingdom, Latvia, Portugal, Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, USA, New Zealand, Canada and Belgium.

In addition, the web site has recently received visitors from the following countries that are not currently represented on the mailing lists:

Aruba, Bulgaria, Bahrain, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Croatia, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Iceland, Korea (South), Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Mauritius, Peru, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, El Salvador, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Uruguay, Virgin Islands (U.S.) and Yugoslavia.

This is all based on the addresses used to connect to Balloon HQ and email addresses that are registered on one of the mailing lists.

Speaking of which, a year or two ago we heard of these guys traveling around the world, making balloon hats, taking pictures and making a book. It sounds like a great adventure. There are some wonderful pictures of very foreign (to me) cultures wearing balloon hats. Some of them I'd like to frame. Go see for yourself at: the Balloon Hat Experience

As BHQ grows internationally, we've found it best to ensure that non-English speaking people can make use of the information we have. Many of you will start noticing pages showing up in other languages. Everything we do will continue to be in English first since that's the language that the BHQ editors speak, but we now have a few volunteers helping us to get BHQ into their native tongues. If you're curious, you can set the default language for your web browser to French, Dutch, or German and see what has been translated. At the current time, it's only the home page. But in the future, who knows.

We have a new photo and contest administrator

For the past few years David Graves has been the most dedicated volunteer any organization could hope for. He not only handled new photos for BHQ, but he started the BHQ photo contest and religiously made sure things got done on the schedule he promised. After being a huge help to all of us, he's decided he needs a much deserved break while he focuses on things like his own balloon business. David, thanks for everything.

Attempting to take his place is Terrie Basko. I say attempting because, as we've all learned, David put a lot more hours into it than he let on to before, and it's rather overwhelming taking over. However, the last contest was run entirely by Terrie, and as of this month, she's taking over the rest of the photo area. We're looking forward to seeing what ideas Terrie can introduce to the site. If you're like to offer suggestions on the photo area or contribute photos of your own, send email to photo@balloonhq.com

New Stuff on BHQ

Since our last newsletter, we've finished creating and/or revising many more chapters of The Guide to Balloons and Ballooning.

The first bunch are:

These chapters represent 200+ pages of balloon-related tips and advice, so pull up a chair 'cuz they ought to keep you busy for a while.

The last one, the "Balloon books, magazines, videos, and CD-ROM's" chapter, has been completely reformatted and revised. Now each book, magazine, video or CD is listed in its own section, alphabetically by author. Links to all reviews that have been posted through August 1, 1999 are included. Please take a look at what's there.

If you know of a balloon-related book, magazine, video or CD (or a posted review) that isn't listed, please write me privately with the author's name and title.

If you own a balloon-related book, magazine, video or CD, you are encouraged to write a review and post it on the appropriate balloon mailing list. (Please DO NOT send reviews to me by private email - they MUST be posted on the mailing list. That way they get stored in the BHQ archive where I can link to them.)

I will add new or missing items and link to newly posted reviews at the next scheduled update of this chapter.

If you are a book author, magazine publisher or video star, please check that the list of your works is complete and that your contact info (email/web address, etc.) is correct. If a book/video/magazine is out of print, I would like to know that too. I will add new or missing items and link to newly posted reviews at the next scheduled update of this chapter (sometime in 2000). However, Balloon HQ Sponsors and Members get immediate updates to their entries.

Finally, if you maintain a web page with your own large list of balloon-related books, videos or magazines (by different authors or publishers) please send me your URL so I can include a link to your page.

The ever popular and ongoing BHQ photo contest

The great thing about the BHQ photo contest is that it's one of the completely interactive things that BHQ offers, and it's proven to be quite popular. We get thousands of people checking out the photos and hundreds that take the time to vote.

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest which featured balloon costumes. The winners were:

If you haven't already, check out all of the entries in the contest.

Also a BIG THANK YOU to the sponsors that contributed to this contest.

   FIRST PRIZE: 
   BRUCE WALDEN'S Balloon School Videos - Set of 4 videos
   Figure Tying - Parts A and B 
   Balloons on Parade 
   Balloon People 
   3 year BALLOON HQ membership 
   
   SECOND PRIZE: 
   CREATION STATION tuxedo vest and matching tie. 
   2 year BALLOON HQ membership 
   
   THIRD PRIZE:
   Full registration for TWIST & SHOUT 2000 
   1 year BALLOON HQ membership 
Details on the upcoming contest coming soon so keep a look out on BHQ!!!

Recent twister list highlights

Just a couple of brief items that we wanted to mention that we haven't had a chance to bring up elsewhere ...

Almost every Guinness record for speed balloon modeling has been broken. You can find the updated list at http://www.recordholders.org/en/list/balloon.html

John Cassidy of Pennsylvania did get verification Nov. 2 that he now holds the record from Guinness World Book of Records for his May 10, 1999 attempt at most balloon creations in an hour. He made a whopping 367 beating the old record of 296. For more info on the event see www.johncassidy.com

Since the last BHQ newsletter appeared, many pages of tips and advice have been shared on the mailing lists. Rather than try to fit it all in here, the best information has been sorted and placed it into one giant file at http://www.balloonhq.com/for_guide/jan00.html In time, this material will all be added to the Guide.

Recent decorator discussions

With everyone thinking of the New Year, Christmas orders were either down or very late in being ordered/confirmed. Before New Year's it looked like the venues planning New Year Parties were spending a lot more cash. However the down side was that with the cost of help and entertainment going up while ticket sales remained down, there were not as many parties.

Since the last BHQ newsletter appeared, many pages of tips and advice have been shared on the mailing lists. Rather than try to fit it all in here, the best information has been sorted and placed it into one giant file at http://www.balloonhq.com/for_guide/jan00.html In time, this material will all be added to the Guide.

New products or other announcements

Balloon Magic the Magazine

Balloon Magic the Magazine, published by Pioneer Balloon has a new editor. Debbie LeBeau, the former editor has left in order to spend more time with her family. The new editor is Stephanie Bloyd.

New balloon pumps - manual and electric

After much research, Pioneer Balloon Company proudly announces the release of two new hand balloon inflators: the Qualatex Pocket Pump and the Qualatex Balloon Pump. The Qualatex Pocket Pump is a dual-action pump, with a tip particularly designed for 160Qs. It's small size, 9" long and 1" around, makes it ideal for twisters on the go. The Qualatex Balloon Pump is a single-action pump, specifically designed for 260Q balloons. It features a special storage compartment hidden in the main tube, which holds approximately two dozen 260Qs.

Both pumps are attractively priced, and will serve as handy substitutes for mouth inflation. For more information on the new Qualatex pumps, or to place an order, contact your favorite Qualatex distributor. For the name of a distributor, call Pioneer Balloon Company at 1-800-356-0901 or 316-685-2266; or visit www.Qualatex.com. Pioneer Balloon Company is the manufacturer of Qualatex latex and Microfoil balloons, the most recognized brand of balloons in the world.

For the higher end twister market, there are changes to the electric pumps available. The Majiloon Balloon Pump is a new pump designed for the twister working long hours. It's a waist pump with a sealed lead acid battery capable of running for several hours at a time. Its strengths include a flexible hose/nozzle, and the somewhat muffled (compared to other electric pumps) noise it produces. See http://www.majiloon.com for more info.

The Balloon Buoy, one of the more popular electric pumps for balloon twisters, is back on the market after being unavailable for several months.

Colors of the rainbow

Pioneer Balloon Company is now offering Limited Edition latex colors, a program designed to offer a select variety of Qualatex latex balloon colors driven specifically by retailers' requests.

Limited Edition colors will be available only in 5" and 11" sizes, and in 100-count packages. These colors will be manufactured and shipped to distributors twice a year, in the spring (product will begin shipping to distributors by March 15, 2000) and in the fall (begin shipping by Sept. 15, 2000).

The first Limited Edition colors are new Lime Green, Periwinkle, and Pearl Mandarin Orange; as well as Sky Turquoise and Pearl Mauve, which are moving from the Rainbow of Colors line. The Limited Edition colors are featured in The Very Best Balloons 2000 catalog.

One big happy family

PBC Acquires BSA Brand From The National Latex Products Company, Inc.

We're pleased to be able to report that Pioneer Balloon Company has formed a new wholly owned subsidiary, Pioneer National Latex, Inc. (dba) National Latex Company, which acquired certain assets of The National Latex Products Company, Inc. The transaction was effective December 6, 1999 with the final closing taking place on December 10, 1999. The activity acquired includes the National Latex retail products line and the Balloon Supply of America brand of decorator balloons, but does not include National's former Specialty Advertising business.

The new company will operate as a separate, stand-alone company focusing on the consumer packaged balloons and playball markets. If you were a customer of NLP or BSA, you should continue to work with the same people as you have in the past. There are no plans at this time to combine sales, customer service, order processing or distribution of the two companies. The same product lines associated with the two companies will continue unchanged until we have a chance to work with our National Latex Company managers to evaluate all the opportunities and challenges to make the company stronger. Pioneer's position on support for Qualatex as the preferred balloon brand remains unchanged.

Some have asked why we were interested in National. Pioneer has pursued this asset acquisition because our business is generally complementary with the NLP business, and the areas of overlap are relatively small. We're excited about NLP's strong presence in the consumer packages market, and we look forward to growing this base in the near future.

We have a great deal of confidence in the management team in place at National Latex Company. Tom Douglas, who heads up the plant operations, was formerly the plant manager at our Willard plant. In addition, three other supervisors are former Pioneer employees. We spent a great deal of time studying the National business, and assessing what was working well and what needed some improvement. In that process, we gained great respect for the whole complement of employees, and feel that they will easily acclimate as part of the Pioneer Worldwide family. We are very pleased to have the National/BSA marketing and sales team leadership join with us in building the market, and are happy to report that Lisa Bennett, Renne Watson and Joe Noto have all joined the new Pioneer National Latex team.

We know that there will be a lot of questions about what this means for product lines, etc. This asset acquisition came together very rapidly, and we will now begin working together to develop answers to those questions. We appreciate your understanding as we work these questions and will post more information when we can.

If you have specific questions regarding the acquisition which cannot be answered by your regular contact, please feel free to E Mail Ted A.Vlamis (tedv@pioneerballoon.com), Dan Flynn (danf@pioneerballoon.com) or Betty Vlamis (bettyv@pioneerballoon.com) or call them at 316.685.2266.

Thank you all for your support of our companies, and we look forward to bright times ahead.

Dan Flynn
Chief Operating Officer
Pioneer Balloon Company

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This BHQ newsletter has been compiled by the Balloon HQ editors.

The Balloon HQ web site can be found at http://www.balloonhq.com.