Balloon HQ news for March 1999

This is the BHQ monthly posting with updates, pointers, current discussions, industry announcements, and generally anything that looks useful to share with the balloon industry.

I can't believe it's that time again. I opened my big mouth and said this would be a monthly thing. I'm not sure if I should be thrilled or upset that so many people have written to me encouraging me to continue it. If everyone kept their mouths shut, I might have been tempted to switch to bi-monthly. But I offered, and you've asked for it, so this month's babbling is here.

As you'll see below, the big news since the last newsletter went out is a couple of large conventions that US balloon folks are lucky enough to have on their own turf. In fact, Mark, Sheena, and I have all been at these things catching up with old friends and matching faces to email addresses. And for me, it's off to Europe in a couple of days for yet another convention.

-LM

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:

Upcoming events

Australasian Balloon Convention April 12th-16th, 1999
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Australasian Balloon Convention (ABC '99) will be held in Brisbane, Australia from April 12-16. It promises to be a fabulous opportunity to mix, mingle and network with your peers, while you attend lectures, demonstrations, classes and workshops designed to improve your skills and competitions to show them off. The father of LINK-O-LOON(tm), Jean-Michel Lucie will be demonstrating this versatile product in a special class. Come experience the wonderful Queensland hospitality, weather and natural wonders.

For further details, visit the ABC site:

http://www.sanbrook.com.au/abc_welcome.htm

To register, telephone Liz O'Sullivan at +61 7 3808 3022 or fax her at +61 7 3808 3668

Southern Ontario Spring Clown Conference April 23-25, 1999
Brantford, Ontario, Canada

The Brantford Clown Alley is at it again. Clowning, Juggling, and of course balloons will be taught. Jamming will happen at all hours of the night. Contact Wendy Warwick (woohoo@execulink.com) for more info or call 519-752-7299

Comedy College 1999

Comedy College 1999 is a 5 day conference in Norfolk, Virginia, designed for professional and semi-professional family entertainers. It includes a full day of balloon twisting workshops on Saturday June 19. You can attend the entire event or just the one day balloon twisting workshop. Get more details at

http://members.aol.com/comedycoll/main.htm

European Balloon Modeling Meeting

For Balloon Twisters, the European Balloon Modeling Meeting will be held in Melle, Germany, November 2-4, 1999. For more information contact:

Rždiger Paulsen
Surprise Balloon Company
phone 05425/6551 (Germany)
fax 05425/7549 (Germany)

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 the winners from the T & Jam competitions on the Balloon HQ home page. If you haven't seen them yet, check them out to see the twister creativity that amazed us all in Austin, TX. But, make sure to visit soon since we now have cool stuff from Chicago to fill the spotlight space.

T & Jam 1999

Dateline: Austin, TX.

The first annual "T and Jam 1999" balloon twister's convention was held at the Austin Chariot Resort Inn on February 19-21. Under the careful organization of the T Myers crew, the 200 plus twisters in attendance immediately established it as the premier twister event in the land.

Twisters started arriving on Thursday and quickly turned the hotel into one giant jam. Twisters of all levels, from novice to champion, were fast becoming friends and sharing their craft. They twisted outside till it was too dark to see and then moved indoors to the restaurant and the bar. T Myers and crew brought the entire TMyers Magic ( http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=TMyers) store to the hotel, while Larry, Mark and Sheena from Balloon HQ brought a computer to introduce people to the online world of balloons.

Friday was much the same, with more people coming into the hotel, twisting wherever there was an empty space and getting to know one another. All met for the official welcome and then it was open mic time. After a hilarious show put on by volunteer entertainers, there was more jamming.

Classes started Saturday with sessions scheduled so that each attendee had the chance to see all the teachers/classes if they wanted. The saturday competition was awe inspiring. There were no official "judges." Instead, everyone who entered a sculpture got to pick the sculpture they thought was the best in each of three categories. Then right after the voting it was time to eat!

The banquet was incredible fun. While everyone was eating, Jim from T.Myers Magic was tallying the votes. Then Tom read off the results and presented the awards: Balloon Magic books and videos, BSA gift certificates, three boom boxes, Qualatex jackets, and T.Myers plaques. Pictures of the incredible sculptures appear on Balloon HQ. The winners were:

But the night wasn't over - After dinner, a "forced jam" occurred; there was a pile of balloons in the middle of each table and a contest was held to see which table could make the best group sculpture. More twisting followed in the restaurant and bar.

Sunday started with a service led by John Holmes and Ralph Dewey. The rest of the day was left open for private lessons taught by anyone who could recruit students. There must have been 15 or more different lessons going on; weaving, balloon entertainment, cartoon characters, gospel balloons and much more. Prices ranged from $10 - $25 for a lesson, some lessons were limited to 2 hours, some had no limit.

There was no official closing ceremony - the sun just slowly set on T and Jam 1999. As tired but satisfied twisters headed off in all directions for home, there was one uniform sentiment being expressed: WE CAN'T WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR!!!!

T & Jam photos and video are online at http://www.balloonhq.com/tjam99pics.html.

IBAC 15 and the National Halloween and Party Show

Chicago was once again home to the combined events of IBAC and the National Halloween and Party Show. This year's lobby (atrium) scuplture was a mural created out of round balloons, in an attempt to break a world's record. I belive the final count was well over 70,000 balloons in a New Year's Eve mural 10 stories high.

The scuplture competitions were excellent, as always, with the winners being:

Neat ideas that caught my eye included the rotating clear donut balloons filled with small white numbered balloons in the 'ibac bingo' machine, and utilizing round donuts as giant beads to represent a kachina doll. The first place large-sculpture winner, a rendition of Disney's/ Pixar's Flik from A bug's Life was a sight to behold.

The traditional Friday night twister's outing to Ed Debevics was crashed this year by a large contingent of balloon decorators. This, in itself wasn't a bad thing. We were thrilled to have so many new people join us. We just didn't expect it and ran out of room for people to eat. Next year we'll make sure to have more space. On a good note, the extra people helped Royal Sorell celebrate a belated birthday and everyone had a good time.

The Halloween and Party Show was outstanding, and their new 'Balloon Alley' concept, that grouped the movers and shakers in the balloon industry all in one place, went over very well. Pioneer brought a display of balloon dipping forms for each balloon they make, including the patented geo forms! Another exciting thing was the accumulation of potential prizes for the next Balloon HQ contest. Be ready to create up a storm, we'll be announcing details soon, and Balloons and Parties ( http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=partilife). will help with promotions!

There were lots of new balloon products this year; the Link-O-Loon group from Australia and the Yo-Yo Balloon booth were constantly surrounded by people. Theatre Effects had loads of great stuff, including a machine that put out smoke filled bubbles. Westwinds http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=WestWinds). displayed wonderful new mini helium tanks and Conwin's inflator/sizers were as popular as ever. The Hi-Float founders have a new educational video available, and have given BHQ permission to re-create their Hi-Float book entirely for the Guide. Y2K stuff was everywhere - Larry Daniels even has a new BalloonPro/ BalloonsAway drop net designed to drop 2000 balloons ( http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=BloonPro).

We also got to see recent issues of Weddings With Style ( http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=Weddings). and Balloons and Parties. These are truly high-class publications with beautiful photos. Also, Balloons Everywhere ( http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/ads.pl?advert=BallEverywhere) had so much neat stuff, that I'd reccomend you take a look at their wonderful web site.

It was great seeing so many of the Balloon HQ sponsors; they all put on a great show. Head on over to Balloon HQ to see some photo highlights of IBAC 15 and the National Halloween and Party Show.

IBAC photos can be seen at http://www.balloonhq.com/ibac99pics.html.
Ed Debevics and Halloween and Party Show photos can be seen at http://www.balloonhq.com/rose99pics.html
More photos should be coming soon.

The ever popular and ongoing BHQ photo contest

The contest that's about to end is the "Deflated Balloon Contest". This is an odd contest if ever there was one, but that's been all the more reason why people have been having fun with it. We'll continue to take submissions until March 31. Voting will be throughout the month of April.

Check out the up to the minute contest information at http://www.balloonhq.com/photos/contest/contest.htm

Also, on April 1 we'll be announcing the next contest. Watch closely for details. This is a contest with quite a few valuable prizes. The theme is Autumn Wedding Centerpieces. Start digging through your old photos or planning a new creation for this contest.

This month's additions to the photo collection

This month's additions to the BHQ online photos include some interesting decor photos and round balloon sculptures, as well as the usual barrage of twisted creations. Check out the latest pictures in the BHQ photo section at http://www.balloonhq.com/photos/newmonth.html

Recent twister list highlights

This month we're going to start off with a quote from Arlene Powers, member of the WAY Cool gang who I finally got to meet in person at T & Jam after years of email correspondence: "if any of you notice techniques which haven't been put in the guide, please post them, so we can have access to the best collection of information on balloons." Thanks Arlene, you're the best!

The Magic Cutter, Marvin Hardy's belt-mounted letter opener tool for balloon artists, was a topic of discussion this month. It's a very popular and handy tool, however it inspired concern because of its pointy projection with which many owners reportedly stabbed or gouged themselves, or ripped their shirts on. The solution to making it safe involves either 1) mounting it on your pump instead of your body, or 2) breaking off the pointy tip just above the blade part, then filing down the rough edge. Ed Kennedy added this quip: "If a child should become impaled on your letter opener, try and work it into your patter."

Cap'n Denny posted his thoughts on what he would look for when judging a balloon sculpture contest. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who is considering either entering a competition or judging one. Find his essay at:

http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/mfs/03/upto12Mar1999/archive.8405.html

We also found that no matter what you call yourself, kids are going to refer to you as the "Balloon Man" or the "Balloon Lady" so you might as well get used to it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em :-)

Wipe off that milk moustache and say "Got Helium?" in your best Donald Duck voice. A 6" heart fully inflated with helium will be weightless. Wherever you put it, it stays. A balloon flower made with 6" hearts will hold up the weight of an air-filled stem. A fully inflated 5" smiley will rise. A fully inflated 350 will rise vigorously. Combining helium and air-filled balloons can provide interesting effects. See the "How Helium Filled Balloons Float" chapter of the Guide for more ideas.

Finally, we got into a discussion about web pages for entertainers. Consider what a great advertising tool a website is. A web page is such a simple venture that there is really no reason not to have one. It's not the future, it's now. Compared to printing full color brochures, the internet allows you to present a professional image very inexpensively. Put your website address on business cards, flyers, mailings... everywhere. Unlike brochures or business cards, you have a huge amount of space to work with - it can be changed at anytime for no cost - and you can have all the imformation and photos a customer could want. When you get that call, and they would like some more info... or would like to see some photos or whatever, they can be directed to your site! While a customer is on your site, they can take their time learning about your services - plus, if they are booking for a company, now they have something they can show the boss or board members who are deciding who to hire for this year's event.

In 1999 people expect business owners to use all the current electronic resources. Potential clients frequently send e-mail to check on your availability and to send directions and maps to the parties. They sometimes send thank you e-mails after the party, too.

A website for twisters is not really a sales vehicle, but a support tool. It's a resource to compliment mailings, phone calls, and other marketing methods. It's a way for potential clients to learn everything there is to know about you as a professional entertainer. Rather than wait a day or two for your promotional materials, they can log on and see your picture, read your resume, get testimonials, etc. immediately. It can be used to state your schedule for regular gigs and to provide additional information at minimal cost. Get a web site today!

Recent decorator discussions

Which jobs are YOU going to book for NYE 2000? With DJ's and halls increasing their rates tenfold, what will you charge? We know that on Valentines Day, flower growers charge more for the fruits of their labor, but should balloon professionals take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rake in the dough, just because we can? Will you commit to low profit jobs now and be forced to turn down the gravy jobs that appear in November? Will you follow your normal pricing formula or hold out and then sell yourself to the highest bidder? Answer these difficult questions for yourself now, so you'll be confident and prepared when dealing with customers.

Pricing shouldn't be guesswork. It shouldn't be arbitrary. If you are in business for yourself, you know that nothing in life comes free. For NYE 2000 you will have to do marketing all year long; if it works you then have to add extra staff (and train them), maybe even rent trucks to do extra deliveries. Helium, balloons and other party supplies may become scarce and expensive. Will you be ready? Don Dixon posted his own answer and described his pro-active approach at http://www.fooledya.com/cgi/mfs/04/upto12Mar1999/archive.7891.html

It's worth rereading!

To be Mylar or not to be Mylar... that is the question. In their El Dorado, KS, plant, Pioneer manufactures "foil" balloons made of nylon sheet, coated on one side with polyethylene and metallized on the other. The CBA videos say that since it's so much harder to make balloons out of aluminized Mylar, nobody does it. But then it was pointed out that new Mylar formulations exist which _can_ be heat-sealed. Is anyone out there making true Mylar balloons? Inquiring minds want to know!

LINK-O-LOON(tm) balloons were on display in "Balloon Alley" at the Halloween and Party Show in Chicago. The LINK-O-LOON(tm) system will initially be available in the US in 30 of the most popular colours (including Standard, Fashion, Crystal, Pearl and Metallics). If they are a hit, we'll get all 59 colors.

It is very important to research themes for your events - fresh, creative decor ideas are often the key to selling a job. But who has time to spend in the library? Well, did you realize that you are reading this on a research tool used by students all across the world? That's right - a computer wired to the Internet is an incredible resource. With the help of a search engine you have the entire web at your fingertips! Whenever you run into road blocks, punch in a keyword or two and let the answer pop up on your moniutor. With the background information in hand, brainstorm up a unique twist and that job will be yours!

The subject of pool decor came up a few times this month. One unconventional idea is to use SDS frames. Even though they are metal, they will float when filled with balloons and the bonus is that they won't get blown out of the pool. The foam version of SDS called Flex-Frame is also excellent for pool decor

There was a lot of good bridal fair advice posted this month. Brides are impressed when your booth incorporates some kind of arch for them to walk under. Whether it's a simple fish-spine arch attached to satin swagged poles or a walk thru heart, it is an attention getter that makes them want to walk into your booth.

To protect floors from base plates, put down rubber matting. It protects the floor and keeps your bases from slipping. To avoid marking polished floor surfaces, glue carpet to the underside of all your steel base plates. Carpet tiles are ideal as the edges don't fray and the pole can be moved easily by sliding it on the polished floor surface.

New products or other announcements

UNCLE CURT & HUGS have a new video out called SERENDIPITY BOPPITY BOO: This one hour video is meant for intermediate to advanced twisters BHQ readers in the continental US get free postage and handling when you mention that you heard about this on BHQ. For more info, contact Uncle Curt at: unclecurt@alcnet.com

Conwin introduced their Masterpiece Series of instructional videos, featuring the industry's top balloon artists sharing their secrets of the trade on everything from the latest decorating techniques to business management and marketing skills. Each 2-tape 90-120 minute program includes an informative quick-reference guide. As a special bonus, all programs include valuable Conwin coupons. Request a new catalog and video from your Conwin distributor, or contact Crystal Narramore, Conwin's new Public Relations Director, at Crystal@conwininc.com, or call (800)877-8889, ext.203

Larry Moss is proud to introduce his latest Instructional CD-ROM entitled "Attack of the 50 Foot Demon." With text, line art, photographs, and Quicktime video, this disc is probably the most comprehensive resource written to date on the subject of how to produce balloon fabrics (aka balloon weaving). The CD goes through terminology, and technique, starting with basic braiding and moving on to techniques for creating 2D and 3D objects out of balloons, including basket-like forms, tubes, and planar objects.

There is a section, on the Japanese Demon project Larry was involved in last December, a section on twisting heart balloons, thoughts on the theory and practice of busking (entertaining on the street for tips), and much much more.

If you're looking for detailed, step-by-step instruction on how to make your own 50-foot demon, or any other complex woven/plaited/fabric sculpture here, you're not going to find it. Larry's giving you the basics (which are not basic at all), and leaving the specific execution up to you. What you do with all of these techniques is limited only by what you can think up. This CD will give you a new balloon vocabulary to write your own latex stories.

T. Myers has listed Larry's new CD as his "Best New Product." There is so much information on it that it takes some serious time just to scan through it. The CD-ROM is useable on a Mac or Windows 9x/NT machine and sells for $20. More info on the CD can be found at http://www.fooledya.com/book/attackof.html

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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.