June 18th found me, John the Balloon Man, at Maker Faire NC, in the Gov. Kerr Scott building at the NC Fairgrounds. I sat between the B.O.L.T.S. (Brotherhood of Learning & Teaching Smiths) folks from Goldsboro, blacksmiths of a sort (their term), and the wacky and wonderful CHAOS machine, a rather large, well wrought assemblage of 3 dimensional grids, chutes and electric escalator ladders that moved plastic marbles around, reminiscent of the old “Mousetrap” game. My mission, to amuse and delight the children in attendance through the twisting of inflated latex cylinders, otherwise known as “animal balloons.”
My partner Karen Tiede participated in Maker Faire NC as a “Maker,” showing her hand knit rag rugs made from upcycled old clothes. I contacted Jon Danforth, the capable organizer, and let him know that I would love to attend, at no charge, with permission to have a tip jar. The Maker Faire NC team thought balloon art would be a fine addition to the mix.
The Maker Faire event planning team suggested walk around entertainment, but I replied that I might best be stationary. History has taught me that when I start twisting, a line forms instantly. More often than not, the line stays 20-minutes long for the duration of the event. The CHAOS fellow remarked that together, we were a “kid magnet.”
Once we finished setting up Rags to Richness, my partner’s booth, I took a minute to set up my area, and had time remaining to walk around the indoor arena. Maker Faire attracts marvels and wonderful things, systems, art and science. I purchased a necklace from the Scrap Exchange booth that commemorated my getting lost at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, as a six-year-old (that is another story, best told some other time), which I gave to Karen.
The first few balloons were gifts to children of fellow makers and sponsors. Once the doors opened at 10:00, the flood gates opened and the serious twisting began. The children in line were of the age that is delighted by the whimsical items I create from a balloon.
Two breaks, spaced a couple of hours apart, dozens of children delighted, as many parents amused. A fine break area for Makers, provided by the organizers, kept me in fine fettle. The A/C struggled to keep up toward the end, but honestly, I did not notice it until two moms commented about how warm it was.
Happy children, happy parents, happy organizers and happy balloonist. Everyone was a winner at the Maker Faire NC! One of the event sponsors approached near the end and expressed her gratitude for the work I had done. (As a mother of once-small children, she had noticed how the younger children, and their parents, appreciated age-appropriate entertainment.) That, along with all the smiles I helped happen, really made my day.