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Balloon Links

The following is a list of links that I believe to be invaluable to anyone who wants to be a balloon entertainer. I am categorizing the links, and giving my own personal opinions and comments for each link. I take full responsibility for comments and opinions on this page. Take your time, especially with the Balloonhq links. There's a TON of stuff there.

Online Instructions/Balloon Forums:

BalloonHQ.com - The most complete source for instruction, inspiration and News within the Balloon industry. Here you will find an incredible library of Balloon Photos, a directory of Balloon Professionals, Balloon Forums, Monthly Columns designed to help in all areas of your business written by members of the site, as well as staff. This is a pay-site, but there is ALOT you can do for free.

I think the "Guide to Balloons and Ballooning" at the top left portion of the homepage is free to use.
Click on the link for the guide and pay special attention to the following sections: Under "Balloon Sculpture Basics" pay special attention to "twisting balloons 101 and 102".

Under "Advanced Discussions" pay special attention to "Restaurants 101 and 102".

If you want to learn to Weave, check out this link: http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/weave/ Many of the instructions on this page are online streaming video!

Paid Memberships include your own webspace for an online portfolio that you can use to show prospective clients your work, as well as a personalized "you@balloonhq.com" email address. My portfolio is http://drbaloonatic.balloonhq.com/ .I put this address on my business cards so people can see my work. Paid memberships cost $55 for one year, or $85 for two years. I signed up for 2 years and honestly, I use the site almost every day.

I highly recommend checking out other BHQ member's portfolios for ideas and inspiration. They are free to look at, you do NOT need to be a member. Here are just a few of my favorites, in no particular order. All of these are incredible twisters and Great People to know, as well:
James Vigeant - A true prodigy. A young man whose balloon work is quite extraordinary.
Jeanine Von Essen - She gave me some personal, one-on-one lessons that I still value today.
Don Caldwell, AKA Buster Balloon - What can I say about Don? He's considered by many to be this generation's "ultimate" balloon entertainer. To balloon twisters and professionals, his work is instantly recognizeable. It's like looking at a classic work of art and saying to someone, "That's a Caldwell design" as if it were a Picasso or a Chagall.
"Just" Marie - "Just" Marie simply doesn't suffice to describe the incredible art produced by this consummate talent. Her creations are some of the most realistic, most impressive balloon designs I've ever seen.
Bonnie Davis - Bonnie is such a sweetheart, and an amazing talent. Her artistic drawing talents really shine in her balloon creations. Her drawn faces, eyes and other details bring her balloons to life.
Andrew Macdonald - His work is just amazing. His creations are very real to life and a pleasure to look at.
Carmen Tellez - Her balloon twisting skills and artwork drawing is amazing. She draws incredible faces, eyes, and other details on her balloons that make me smile and say, "wow" everytime I see them.
John Christianson - An unsung genius, you have to see his stuff to believe it. His original creations range from almost too cute and cuddly to borderline sociopathic. If nothing else, you have to check out his Muppet designs.
Sean McDaniel - A fantastic Balloon Twister in the New Hampshire area, Sean is also a member of MBD2.com This is his actual website, not a BalloonHQ portfolio.

There are lots more, and I will add more as this site grows. I don't know what else to say, Balloonhq is THE Balloon Professional's site.


MBD2.com - This is a "free" website/forum. Most of the discussions are free and available to non-paying members, but the owner requests a "donation" to access the Balloon Instruction portions of the site. You may donate any amount you want, there is no set price. He asks you to donate whatever you think it's worth. I don't want to influence you by telling you what I pay, but I think it's an INCREDIBLE source of information and instruction. The best part of this site is the Balloon Instruction Forums! If you want to learn how to make something specific, chances are it's listed here. If you can't find it, ask! One or more members will respond to your request and show you how to make whatever it is you are trying to get a handle on. The site also sells balloon products, supplies and materials but I buy balloons in such high volume that I get better pricing from Wholesale Distributors. He does have some hard-to-find items such as scrolling LED Message Badges and Galaxy Markers at reasonable pricing.

Professor Wonder - VERY Simple Balloon Instructions. These instructions are the really simple things that you SHOULD be able to make at a beginner's skill level. These are VERY simple designs, but I recommend that you know how to do them. The owner of the site is a self-proclaimed "Gospel Balloon Artist". His balloon design descriptions and phrasing are full of God references and religious stories. This is not a bad thing, faith is important to many people. I believe "each to his own". I just mention it as a matter of fact.

Qualatex - This is the Official website of Qualatex Balloons. Qualatex is the industry leader, and also my balloon of choice. I use Qualatex almost exclusively, with the exception of a few special shapes that I use on occasion. The things I like best about Qualatex is that they "feel" great for twisting, and you can get them in retail "party" shops just about anywhere in the country. Qualatex 260's come in bags of 100 and retail about $10.00/bag. You can buy them here on my site by clicking Here. If you buy in quantity, you can get a considerable discount. Email me for details. They come in bags of individual colors, or you can also get prepackaged assortments of their most "pop"ular colors (Sorry, I just couldn't help myself). To get to the Balloon Instructions portion of the website, click on the "balloon instruction" link on the left column of the homepage. You will have to register to view the material. Most of these instructions are for Balloon Decor, but Balloon Twisters can scale down almost all the designs to 260's and 5" rounds, using clear 260's for "percieved floatation" instead of using Helium for actual floatation. The REAL value of these designs for Twisters is that a talented Balloon Twister can use them as "Idea Generators" for their restaurant/line work.

Betallic - This is the manufacturer of Betalatex Balloons. They are Qualatex' biggest competition and are garnering a larger portion of the Balloon Twister market on a daily basis. You can buy Betalatex balloons at Tmyers.com. Betalatex 260's come in packages of only 50 balloons, and they retail about $5.50/bag if you can find them in retail stores. I believe that the biggest reason for their speedy growth is that they "sponsor" select high-profile balloon artists, providing some product in exchange for their endorsement (this is strictly my opinion, I do not know if this is fact or not). Also, they're pretty big in Europe. I have used them and they have some good points and some bad points. I have to admit that their colors look slightly but noticeably better and richer than Qualatex, but they "feel" weird to me. Also, I mouth-inflate balloons and they are harder to blow up than Qualatex. As for the website, it is a great source of information, and you don't have to jump through hoops to get to the designs section like at the Qualatex site. You can become a Member for free, and I suggest you do so. Once you are a member, click on the "bGallery" link on the right. As with the Qualatex instructions, these are mostly Balloon Decor instructions, but you can adapt many of them to 260's. Think of these as "idea generators" just like the Qualatex designs.


Other Balloon Professional's Websites:
Theballoonwizard.com - Roger the Balloon Wizard is a local balloon Entertainer here in the Las Vegas Area. His balloons are really cool, but his REAL specialties are his Pirate and Jedi Birthday Shows!! Check him out.


Supplies/Materials:
BaloonSupplyDotCom (Formerly Balloon Supply House) - This is Las Vegas' only local authorized Qualatex Wholesale Distributor. If you live in Las Vegas, you can find retail sellers of Qualatex balloons but expect to pay an extra 30-50% above Balloon Supply's price. Since changing ownership, they now accept walk-in customers. They are located on the corner of Charleston and Pecos, the address is 21 N. Pecos Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89101. They carry Qualatex, Betallic and Tuf-Tex latex and mylar balloons. They also carry many "decorator" materials and supplies, and have several other very good points:

  1. I can get stuff on short notice.
  2. I can get stuff that TMyers doesn't carry such as some of the 11" printed rounds and small Mylars that I use.
  3. I can get helium and other supplies that cannot be shipped.

The store is owned by Tim and Maria, and they are GREAT people to get along with. I highly recommend them for any balloon stock you may need.

Tmyers.com - This is one of the BEST online suppliers of balloons and entertainer products. They carry almost everything you will want or need with regards to Balloons, Face Painting, Juggling, Magic and Temporary Tattoos. They offer wholesale-type pricing and you do NOT need a business license or Federal Tax Number. They are rarely out of stock, and are very prompt. They carry Qualatex, Betallatex, and several "odd" brands of balloons. I live in Las Vegas. If I order by 2pm (Texas time) on Monday, I will get my order by the weekend via UPS ground. They offer Balloons, Balloon Accessories, Books and Videos, Face Paints, Juggling supplies and equipment, Magic supplies and equipment, and Temporary Tattoos. They also carry Magic tricks/supplies, Juggling supplies, Face Painting supplies and Clown supplies. I can't say enough about TMYERS, this is THE one-stop shopping site for the Professional Children's Entertainer!

MacPump - This is where I bought my Electric balloon pump. Mac's a great guy, and an incredible twister! He built his first pump out of necessity, and all his friends wanted to have one, as well. He turned it into a decent little business.

Twist 'em Up - This is where I got my balloon apron.

Party City - There are several locations in Las Vegas. They offer 12" rounds in single colors packaged under their own name, as well as Qualatex 260 assortments but no single colors and no 160's or 350's or hearts/special shapes, or prints. They do have a fairly decent assortment of Mylars. The main advantage here is that they have LOTS of party-type stuff but it's all at retail prices. You will pay more for Qualatex 260's here, but there's no shipping cost and you can have it right now. If I used Qualatex assorted bags, I might buy them here if I was in a pickle. I buy their 12" rounds for balloon decor and helium-filled Mylars for special occasions/parties.

Wal-Mart - Though they do carry "twister" balloons, they are cheap, low quality products that are not worth the price they ask. I do occasionally buy pre-inflated helium-filled Mylars here. They have a pretty large selection of Mylars that changes seasonally. I buy my markers here. I buy the Sharpie 12 packs of black and 18-packs of assorted colors.

Michaels - This is a craft store. I buy my Galaxy Paint Pens here. These compliment my Sharpie colors. Many of the Sharpie colors don't show up on the darker balloons. The Galaxy Pens are acid-free and the colors are true. No matter what you put them on, Red is Red, Blue is Blue, etc.



Balloon Conventions/Events:
The following are the "main" balloon conventions/events in the United States. There are about 3-4 more "major" conventions or balloon events in other countries. I put them in order of when they are held annually:

DiamondJam - This is held in Mesa, AZ in early January. It is definitely within driving distance from Las Vegas. It is a National Gathering of Balloon Twisters. There are high-quality instructors, all of them are well-known within the Balloon Community. The *BEST* feature of this convention is the 24-hour "Jam Room"! Each night after dinnertime, almost everyone attending the convention congregates for a HUGE balloon jam session. You will find lots of people willing to share their experience and stories. Last year's (Jan. 2006) Jam Room had Karaoke, a Caricature Artist, Juggling, and LOTS of Balloon twisting. ***These were NOT part of the organized event! These people simply brought their various gigs with them. I am thinking of bringing my Airbrush Tattoos with me this time. As with all the conventions listed here, the Jam Room is sponsored by a different balloon manufacturer each night. They provide balloons for free for the entire room. This is a chance to try out the various manufacturers balloons without having to buy them. At the time this website is being published, the cost to attend next year's event is currently $139.00. The price goes up as the date gets closer, see the website for up-to-date pricing information. The price does NOT include hotel accommodations, classes or meals (except for the Awards Banquet on the last night). The hotel where it is held gives a fairly decent discount, but it's still around $100/night and you can find cheaper rates at nearby hotels. I feel that the ability to just walk back and forth to my room whenever I want is worth the extra few bux per night. Classes are $5 each, and you pay each instructor in cash at the beginning of class. The hotel food is decent but not cheap, but there are several fast-food restaurants within easy walking distance. The convention also has a "Dealer's Room" with several balloon and other retailers setting up a mini "portable shopping mall" right on the premises. The Dealer's Room is open to everyone, even if you're not a convention attendee. I went to all 3 U.S. conventions last year, and this was the most fun for me personally.

Twist and Shout - This is held in late February each year. In 2006 it was in St. Louis. In 2007 it will be in Franklin, Tennessee, which is close to Nashville. This is another National Gathering of Twisters with high-quality instructors, all of them well-known in the industry. This one also has a 24-hour Jam Room sponsored each night by a different manufacturer, but it's just a balloon Jam. No Karaoke or other activities. The advantage here is that there is nothing to distract you from learning about balloons. In St. Louis, the event was at a hotel very near the Airport. The drawback to that is that the ONLY place to eat was in the hotel. There was NOTHING within easy walking distance, and I did not rent a car. Meals were VERY expensive, I averaged about $35-40/day just in food. Registration is currently $125.00, the price goes up as the date gets closer. The hotel offers a decent discount for attendees very similar to DiamondJam, and the room rate is in the $100/night range instead of the $145 they normally get. Classes are $5 at the door and paid directly to the instructor, same as DiamondJam. The only meal included is the Awards Banquet on the last night of the event.

Summer Balloon Camp - This event is organized, sponsored, and owned by the original owners of Balloonsupply.com. Though I disliked their store when they owned it, I have to admit that this is a well-organized, very professionally run event. On the surface it looks very expensive, but the registration includes EVERYTHING. Your meals, hotel room, and classes are all paid up-front. Registration is currently $675 per person. After you factor in the cost of a room and food at other conventions, this price becomes much more reasonable. Now for the drawbacks: They try to cater to the ENTIRE balloon industry, with emphasis on Decorators and Retailers, and then Twisters almost as an afterthought. The classes are mostly Decor-oriented, and there are very few really "advanced" twisting classes. Again, I have to admit that attending the Decor classes gave me LOTS of insight into another dimension of my balloon business. I have sold some arches and Wedding Decor as a direct result of what I learned at Balloon Camp. Many Twisters bad-mouth Balloon Camp and Balloonsupply in general, claiming that they don't care about us. As for their store, I agree with that sentiment. But I do like the convention ALOT.

Balloon Manor and Airigami University

- This is a combination of 2 projects in one. Constructed annually in Rochester, NY. Balloon Manor is a HUGE Halloween Haunted House constructed entirely out of balloons! This year they used in excess of 100,000 balloons! This year's construction took 5 days, ending on Oct. 20, 2006. Airigami U is a series of "hands on" classes. "Students" learned how to create every aspect of Balloon Manor including construction of the haunted house itself and all sorts of scary things to put in it. Construction of Balloon Manor was completed entirely by "students" and instructors of Airigami U. Proceeds from admission ticket sales went to local charities. "Students" paid a tuition fee of $525, which included hotel stay, food, and classes. Students were required to assist in the construction of Balloon Manor. I have not done this one yet, maybe next year I'll give it a go. If I do this, it will be instead of Summer Balloon Camp.

BalloonTown USA - I don't know much about this event, I do know it's a charity event similar to Ballon Manor, but the theme is not restricted to Halloween. This is the "official" description, taken directly from the website:

What is BalloonTown USA? BalloonTown USA is more than just balloons...it's the nation's largest independently designed annual balloon exhibition! Simply put, thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of balloons are inflated, sculpted and arranged into a larger-than-life, family friendly walk-through display. And proceeds from the event go to benefit six different non-profit organizations right here in the Tri-State.

Well, I know this is ALOT of information! If you have any questions or need anything specific just ask. If I don't have an answer, I'll get it for you.

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Children's Party Entertainment in Las Vegas
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