Workplaces for balloon twisters

If you are good enough at what you do, surely you will always find work under the conditions that you prefer.
– Garth, the Jolly Juggler

Indoor Work

Outdoor Work

Indoor-Outdoor Work

Altitude Work

Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

Indoor Work


Shopping Malls

  • I am the public relations director for our local clown alley and I was tasked to visit the local malls and see if we could set up a fund-raiser or two. There are three major malls in the area and none of them would allow us to set up in the malls. They all cited a law called the “Public access law” which means that if they let one group in to do a fund-raiser, then they must let everyone in. Mall managers are looking for professional looking, professional acting, suppliers for all of their needs and the competition to supply them is tough. They are busy people and buy from who they remember at the moment they have a need. This means that you have to cross their desk often and make a good impression every time. I send color photos (5 x 7’s), postcards or news clippings about me to all the malls in my part of the state at least 4 times each year. And I wear a sport coat and tie when I go into their office.
  • The way I have handled that situation is to be booked by individual stores. The mall is just the property owner and cannot prevent any store from using your services for their advertising promotions. Usually once you get into a single store the other merchants will also want to book you and then sometimes mall management sees the crowds you can generate and decide to use you for general mall promotions.
  • The one thing that stops most malls is the fear of liability. Carry a several million dollar liability policy and show the mall that you are adequately covered as to liability and they are a lot more receptive to your entertaining. You really should have the insurance anyway if you are doing public shows of any type. The cost is quite reasonable in most cases less than you would charge for a single event.
  • Union Station is starting a 3-hour shift rule, making it necessary to sign up with Security upon arrival and limiting the number of performers to 4 per shift. They are not doing any scheduling so it is just first comes first on the list. There we work for tips only.
  • I make my money in the mall on the weekends. I “cooperate” with a candy store. I do not charge the store. I usually work for tips only, but I insist on getting my tips. I use a balloon menu, and I tend toward the fast & easy stuff for a dollar or two. I make maybe 20-25 C-shells per hour. On peak hours I hit more like 45 per hour. I can do as many hours as I want since the store is not paying me, and I attract people to the store. If you deal with the store, you don’t have to sell yourself to the mall (it’s between you and the store). Otherwise you are just another merchant that they want to rent expensive space to. I can go to any of their stores in any of the malls in the state — however, not all locations are created equal. Despite the size of the mall some places were very poor for me. Also hassles with mall security differ from mall to mall. Some security don’t care where you stand (I usually am right outside the store), but some require you to be well inside the store, and the people attracted to you also had to be well inside the store. Believe me, in the Mall – indoors – in the summer for good bucks is GREAT.All malls are different. We took a bit of advice that T. Myers published once about approaching an individual store in a mall and getting permission to twist in front of the store. This is not all I do but it is our bread and butter. I work for tips. I am on store space, not mall space, and the store wants me there for as many hours as I can stand, as I increase traffic to their store. It is a big chain candy store, and I have unlimited accsess to and store in any mall they are in in 3 states. This does not always work however as some malls will override the store and tell them they are a candy store and the contract with the mall does not allow them to sell balloons (tips for them was the same as sell). But when it does work it works great. There is a great difference in how much money you will make in different malls. We have our favorites. We get begged by everybody to stand in front of their store. I hand lots of cards out.

    At our best store, security lets us have a lot of free reign, and we can go almost anywhere “in front of the store”. At others, I can toe the mark that divides the store from the mall. At one I could make balloons but only to the customers in the store, and passersby were not allowed to see me (this was a wannabe cop that I later complained to mall management about. He managed to start an argument while I had a line of kids).

    Anyway this works for me. It gets me inside and I don’t have to pay rent to the mall. The store does not hire me either but I make up for it in tips. 300 C-shells for a Saturday is not unusual.

  • We are currently twisting in two malls. Where I live I have to meet with the activities director of any mall I want to twist in. I take them a proposal of how I plan to do it, whether I am doing it as a clown or not. When I talk to them I also let them know the fees I charge to do it. In malls you will find lots of children. You will twist your fingers off sometimes. I twist as a clown. In one mall I do not wear a tip pin, but I have made the minimum of what I want to make just by the fee the mall pays me. The other one pays the same amount, but allows us to wear tip pins also.
  • I do much better working for a local trendy mall as a Street Performer during the summer. This is an outdoor mall that has a lot of foot traffic and restaurants with outdoor seating. There are 2 hotels on the grounds so tourist traffic is high. We meet once a month and sign up for the spots (one Friday and 2 Saturday nights) If we work these we are paid 40 C-shells per night and all of the tips we can get.


  • Work for a store as a promotion – try to get paid by the store and get tips.
  • A place to do tips and get advertising at the same time that I’ve found gets me some very nice ‘Company’ work are the warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club. I got into one in 1994 for a special event by invitation, and they liked us so much that they have given us an open invitation to walk in and set up at any time 🙂 Because the clubs are not always able to pay (or willing) the agreement we came to was to be allowed to actively collect tips from the club members. When the members started praising us to the management (don’t you love it?), they came over and thanked us for coming, and issued the invitation. What I like about the clubs, is that you get a very mixed clientele, ranging from basic families to the presidents of companies. Most often, the very persons you may have been trying to get to for months will see you in the club and remember how you treated their kids/grandkids when they got a balloon from you. They will also get one of your cards :)!! Ours is a visual art. And one of the most telling comments about it that I have received from a client was when he said that seeing me in action in a crowd of kids and parents was what caused him to offer me a job on the spot. He’s my biggest Christmas party client now 🙂 (900 ppl) By the way, make sure that the club is busy on the days you want to go. Most often this is on the weekends, but what a place to go on the rare weekend that there is no business elsewhere. Also ask what the pattern of business is for those days. In major metropolitan areas this may not matter, but in places such as where I live, this does. Try to ride the crowded times with a little bit on either side. I typically work 5-8 hrs and can make from $120-$180 in this time. My best was 50 C-shells per hour in 2 really busy hours. I don’t look for a lot of money in these places, I look on it as advertising that doesn’t cost me anything.

Wedding Receptions

  • Have any of you ever considered or actually worked wedding receptions? Especially when all those people are waiting for the Bride and Groom to get done with the pictures and arrive.
  • Yes, Royal has done many Wedding receptions and lately the # is increasing, mostly because many weddings these days are more casual and fun parties (hence more balloon decorations) and the hosts (bride & groom) want their guests to have fun. If two different families don’t know one another, entertainment helps break the ice and give guests something to talk about which is just what roving entertinment at any cocktail party is about. I am also very fortunate to have the best twister around working for me because he came up with a twisted bride & groom that people go bonkers for. They are about 18″ tall, and we get very good money for them. We have used them on gift tables, cake tables, as centerpieces and for showers.
  • I worked one this summer. The bride wanted a surprise for her guests. Imagine the families’ faces when I arrived in my clown costume. They thought someone was tricking the bride. I had a great time. There were not a lot of kids at the wedding, but the big kids enjoyed the balloons almost as much as I did.
  • A college friend asked me if I would do balloons at his wedding reception. They were having a sit-down dinner and wanted something to keep the kids from getting bored between the reception line and the meal. Since then, I’ve done lots of wedding receptions. Usually folks that see me at one and say something like “Hey, we could use something like that at our son’s wedding next summer!” It’s a good market. Next to all the other expenses of a wedding, my fee looks like nothing. But I’m actually getting the same rate as for a corporate picnic.


  • Museums are good places. If you can get a spot in front of a museum you’ll grab lots of people. Adults like balloons every bit as much as kids, but target the kids. Parents will give lots of money to keep their kids happy (and quiet). Also, adults are often afraid to admit they like balloons as much as the kids. If you plan on doing it every day, try to find a good time when you’ll be able to get away after a few hours. Plan on ending around 5:00… the crowds start to thin out around dinner time, you can make your escape. Unlike festivals you don’t want to do so many hours that you hurt your hands every day. You’ll end up doing permanent damage!

Company Events

  • I do my balloons at all types of functions, company and family reunion picnics as well as company holiday parties.
  • I was recently booked for the following job and thought I would share it with you. It is another example of places that you wouldn’t think of when looking for a balloon job. The drug companies hold special events for doctors at movie theatres. They invite doctors and their families to see a free current movie. When the families arrive, the doctors go into the theatre and watch a 15 minute commercial for a new drug from the pharmaceutical company before the main movie. Since the kids would be bored by this commercial, they are kept out in the lobby and SOMEONE needs to keep them entertained until the feature movie starts. Can anyone guess who that SOMEONE could be??? You arrive 1 hour before the commercial, and, when the kids arrive, you sit them down in front of you and make balloons for everyone. It’s a total of about 45 minutes of work. Tomorrow I am working for 1 hour before the main show MY GIANT. You do the show, get free popcorn, see the movie and GET PAID. Need I remind you that drug companies can afford you? Go to your local pharmacist and shmooze with him/her and ask for names and numbers of area reps from the major pharmaceutical companies. Or ask your doctor.
  • I also work for drug companies. Usually I perform at a Sheraton or Marriot. While the doctors are seeing a presentation in one room I am next door with the kids and spouces. I do a short magic show and then balloons. And yes, they do pay a decent wage!

Movie Theatres

  • I have done variety entertainment for Paramount Drive-in Theaters. They own quite a number of theaters that conduct swap meets during daylight hours. Contact the home office of the chain and sell them your services.
  • I have done balloons for the movies as people come into the movies. Sometimes they are waiting in line. Sometimes I am entertaining the crowd and giving out a large creation. Mostly, as they are coming in and they are easy one balloon twists. I have gotten some tips but mostly not. I have also used this venue to try out new comedy routines. As the people are seated and waiting for the previews I walk in and do some jokes and talk to the folks. Stadium seating in this theatre. I haven’t done hats for the obvious reasons. I guess there is some popping but not enough to make a difference. Lots of adults like to have the balloons… like people on dates.
  • I own movie theaters, and we do not allow balloons of any kind into the theater as they can be an annoyance to those in the theater. I don’t even allow the stuff I make in the auditorium.
  • If the kids in your line are likely to take the balloons directly to the library, or a movie theater, or a magic show, or a play or anywhere someone is trying to control audience behavior you are probably making their job more difficult. Sometimes that’s just the way it is (life you know), but you do have the opportunity to see the problem coming and that’s an opportunity to figure out a solution.
  • I would never want to twist balloons for people going into the theater. It is common courtesy to the people on stage or watching the production/movie. As a magician I always twist AFTER my show. Why? Because I do not want the distraction of balloons popping during my show. I have told people if I think it is not an appropriate time for balloons and why I feel that way. Almost every time I am thanked for pointing this out and I’m hired for a different event.

Outdoor Work


General Advice

  • We’ve had people comment that balloons are not allowed at zoos, preserves, certain parks, etc., because the people in charge are concerned about the broken pieces of balloons laying about.Want to get balloons banned from more places? Just leave balloon bits behind everywhere you twist.

    Marvin Hardy teaches that twisters should carry a garbage bag and not throw their balloon pieces on the ground, that twisters should keep their area clean while twisting, and that twisters should leave the area as clean as you found it.

    At the last balloon Jam I attended, we made sure we picked up all the balloon bits under and around the table before we left the restaurant (and no, it wasn’t at my suggestion; one of the other twisters mentioned it, and all those present complied without hesitation).

    Too much work for you? Well, in the Guide you’ll find a number of ways to get the kids to clean up for you:

  • When you twist outdoors, you will have more sculptures pop than when you twist indoors. One of the biggest factors is the weather. The hot sun will kill your balloons faster than just about anything else. I highly recommend putting your balloons in a cooler along with some cold drinks that you’ll be wanting while you’re out anyway. I like to have frozen juice in the cooler instead of ice packs. Then I’m unloading some of the weight of the cooler during the day. When you consider how heavy the change is that you’ll be carrying home, you’ll be glad to have gotten rid of all the weight you can. You are going to pop more balloons if they are hot and soft. A belt pack of balloons with some blue ice is a lot smaller than a cooler. Or have a central place for a cooler and just use 1/2 gross at a time. Or, pop more balloons. Another big factor is grass. A blade of grass is as good as a knife on a balloon.
  • We use a 60 Qt. cooler to hold our stash of balloons. We use a large Blue Ice ™ reusable freezer pack wrapped in a towel to keep them cool. Since it also has a tray, we keep a few sodas and soda ice packs as well. In a separate cooler, we pack about 2 1/2 gallons of unsweetened sun tea (usually laced with peppermint tea) and about 15 small blue ice packs and 5-6 large packs to keep them cold. We swap the little packs out, and wrap them in a towel and put them in the balloon pouch to keep the balloons cool. We go through all of the tea, about 2 sodas apiece, and all the water and lemonade we can find when working in the heat. And yes, the cooler you can keep the balloons in the heat, the better the performance you will get from them. We also carry corn starch baby powder to help remove any stickiness the heat brings on. We learned that you have to be careful not to use too much corn starch or the sculpture will not hold together (Here’s your doggy little girl! – *thwip* *thuppety thuppety*)
  • First – balloons pop. But every batch is different. You probably had a less than great batch. Heat is hard on balloons: 70 is a nice working temp, but I’ve had every balloon pop at 102.
  • If poppage is high, soften the balloon. Let a little more air out and squish it down as you twist.
  • Keep the balloons in a cooler with a frozen plastic liter bottle of ice (to drink during the day) and/or blue ice.
  • Outdoors it’s very wise to burp the balloons a bit to relax the tension. If you use a pump and are in the shade when making your balloons, and most of us are, the temperature of the air going into the balloon is lower than when taken into the direct sunlight. Couple this with darker balloons absorbing more heat than lighter colored ones and you have a new factor of expansion to consider.
  • You will have more poppage twisting in the sun. Don`t worry too much about it. To compensate, keep the figures which involve more intricate twisting for when it`s cooler, e.g. later in the afternoon, and burp your balloons a bit more.
  • Keep your extras in a cooler. As for your animals, you should “burp” them a little, an then make your animals. Leave some leeway on how pressurized your animals are, and you should experience little trouble. On those really hot days try to avoid any of your darker colors, as they attract more heat, and tend to pop more often.
  • I did several hours of balloon sales in the hot sun. After 4-5 hours all my balloons stared popping–I presume the heat got to them. I went and got a new bag, and everything was okay.
  • The clown lists have covered this topic pretty well, re drink fluids, go easy on the sweets, shade, wet towls and the like. cold packs for your balloons, umbrellas, large brimed hats, etc.
  • I did an outdoor job once, inflating by mouth with a very low temperature outside… the balloons sagged and lost shape very quickly.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

  • I make it a point to drink lots of extra water on the day before a gig in the heat. Dehydration sneaks up on you and it takes awhile to recover.
  • DRINK LOTS OF WATER (more than you would, even if you were thirsty). Eat healthful, not greasy, foods. Take breaks when you feel over-heated (they’re in my contracts… and if you’re busking, break when you can).
  • Blowing balloons by mouth dehydrates you faster than using a pump.
  • Gatorade is too sweet. Water it down. Or use Squencher.
  • Make sure you have something to drink, and drink regularily. I twisted for several hours in a very hot summer sun, and consumed large amounts of water. I froze some packs of energy-drink (a kind of watered-down fruit juice with added minerals, like sportsmen use). It kept my balloons cool, and after a few hours, when the sun was at its hottest, It had melted, but was still ice cold.

Stay in the Shade

  • Try to work in the shade.
  • Use a LARGE umbrella.
  • Put a ‘shade’ clause in your contract. It is reasonable to require a tent or canopy in extreme heat. I have even taken my own tent as part of the agreement and gotten paid for it.
  • WEAR A HAT! And cover your arms. Keeping as much of you out of the sun as you can is a good thing.
  • I’d say either make sure you’ll be in the shade, or bring your own shade. Your balloons will thank you. If you have the time and/or $$, get yourself a yard tent for shade (one of those $49.95 dudes will do.)
  • Bring your own shade. I carry an “E-Z UP” dome tent these will easily fit in the trunk of most cars and set up in less than a minute. It helps to have two people to set it up, but I usually just recruit an adult at the party for the few seconds it takes. I got mine at Wal-Mart for $130 well worth the price. There is a web site that tells all about the “E-Z Up” products at
  • At fairs I find that protection from the sun can be a very important consideration. For stationary jobs I have an E-Z UP tent (express model). They set up in less than 2 minutes and you can have your name/logo silk-screened on the top and or walls.
    International E-Z UP, Inc.
    1601 Iowa Ave.
    Riverside, CA 92507
  • When working outdoors I specify that there MUST be good solid shade available for both me and the audience. In the absence of shade, I can provide a shade tent for $15 extra. Got heatstroke once, and now it’s just this simple: no shade, no show.
  • keep your head covered, or try to find a spot with some shade.
  • Work after sundown!

Take Breaks

  • Knowing your limits is important. If you work for 2 hours and feel fatigued, no one in their right mind would fault your for taking a walk in a hidden area and calming down for fifteen minutes.With experience, balloonists discover what they can tolerate, and they can make stipulations about breaks, etc. before accepting a gig. If the prospective employer balks at a break, you should probably let that job go – working for a type “A” person will increase your stress, not reduce it.
  • As a recently diagnosed diabetic I have had to make many major lifestyle changes. One is that I need to eat something every couple of hours. So I eat something right before my gig but after two hours of non-stop entertaining and balloon twisting, I need to sit down, rest and eat something.
  • At the last fair we had a problem taking breaks and getting anything to eat! The people wouldn’t stay away! We kept having to mumble around our pizza or hot dogs that we would start again in 10 or 15 minutes. Next time we’ll make an “On-Duty” Time chart. Post it where all can see, and they can’t get grumpy when you take off a half hour for food, lip-stretching, hand-washing, etc. Sorta like those “next show starts at 12:30” signs for the dolphin show at Sea World.Never buy drinks. You don’t want to leave your spot while working. I don’t usually carry drinks either. It’s just extra bulk to carry around. I like to offer a special sculpture to anyone that buys a drink for me when I’m thirsty. It gives me an excuse to make something big every so often and usually I get a tip in addition to the drink. I also offer to pay for the drink, but they rarely take the money from me.

Keep Cool

  • Other than keeping a cold drink nearby, and sometimes a cold damp towel, I’ve never done anything special to keep myself cool. I’ve seen these scarf-like/ascot things that some stores sell that you wear around your neck to keep cool, but I’m not sure how they work, or what it takes to get them cool.
  • No those things that you wet and wrap around your neck don’t work. They don’t last long enough. I use the soft blue ice things and keep one in my bra. I know some clowns who have sewn special pockets in their costumes to hold them. They last about 2 hours and I carry 2 or three with me. I drink half and half Gatorade and sparkling water while I’m working.
  • If you have electricity, get a good sized fan to blow on you and your potential customers (be sure little fingers can’t get in the blades). If you want to get REALLY tricky, put a 110 window unit on a stand outside your tent and run a duct up into the top of your tent. Create a comfort zone so that people will want to get a balloon and get refreshed at the same time. Not only will it increase your business, but, because you’re cool too, it will increase your productivity. You might even have some extra chairs around for the older folks, like me, who will appreciate the rest. In general, take care of you clientele, and they, in turn, will take care of you.
  • I don’t do this one, but I have a friend who carries one of those mist spray bottle pump-up contraptions for kids that get too hot.
  • Make or purchase an ice vest like Disney workers use. To make your own make a “vest of many pockets”. Put “blue ice” into doubled up zip lock bags and put in freezer. Place in pockets when frozen. Wear the vest under your costume.
  • Wear a broad brimmed hat. Wet it with ice water.
  • Soak your jean legs with water.
  • Put a wet towel around your neck.
  • Soak your feet in a kiddie pool filled with ice water!
  • Turn on the sprinklers. Or at least hose down the concrete.
  • Use a Mistymate. I am going to try and connect a Mistymate to my umbrella. Will add extra nozzels.
  • UNDER THE BIG TOP in Southern California sells a scarf, wrist bands, and bra inserts that are filled with polymer beads and covered with brightly colored fabric. You soak them in ice water and wear them around your neck, wrists and in your bra. It would be a piece of cake to keep extra in a cooler when you have used up all of the “cold” in the ones you are wearing. The great thing is that you can also heat them when needed. The scarf sells for $5.95, wrist bands $6.95 and bra inserts $5.95. Their phone number is 714-579-1144.
  • When it has been really really hot, I book indoor gigs. For outdoor gigs, I bought a little misting fan (with rubber blades) and I put fresh batteries in it each time I go out and when I am hot, I just sit the fan on my balloon box and direct it to my face and it helps to keep me cool. Occasionally, I mist my face with it and some of the kids want me to mist them. They get a kick out of it.
  • I have a few tips to help with the heat. Freeze filtered water in bottles. Use the bottles to keep your balloons cold, and later you get to drink the water — so much more refreshing then soda — quenches the thirst better. Next, I have made a sash style belt that you wear around your waist. It’s sort of like a cumberbund (spelling) that men wear with a tuxedo. The wide part fits into the small of your back where there is a pocket sewn that fits the size of a ice pack. There are three of us in this family that clown, and I have tried all styles of ice packs from the hot and cold compress type to the gel type to the blue ice ones. All work well and will keep you cool anywhere up to two hours at verying degrees. Because this fits in the small of your back it isn’t very visable especially if you wear a vest. And if your back-side is a little more ample as mine is — it really isn’t visable. Make sure if you use this idea that you have something between your skin and the freezer pack so as not to get frostbite (one more use for the sash to hold it to your body). Thanks for all the great tips I have received from this list I hope this tip will help out someone who is HOT!!!
  • I have created a great ice vest at very little expense for those really hot days. I bought a mesh vest with pockets in it (for joggers) and the pockets are supposed to hold weights. They carry them at most sporting goods stores. Then I found ice packs that are a perfect fit. They are from Ross Labs and they are for breastfeeding mothers (ha ha). Bet Ross never thought that hot balloon twisters would be using them. The vest is about $30.00 and the ice packs are under $2.00 each. The vest covers your front and back. Believe me, it got me through some really hot afternoons at a 5 hour corporate affair under a striped jacket.
  • I use a “Camalback,” a water back pack used by cyclists to carry water. Mine holds over a liter, and I can fill it with lots of ice. It does help me to stay cool. It has a small tube that comes out of it so I can have a cold drink of water.
  • Cold Vests – I use mine and love it for summer work. I got mine from Thermo-TEC Exothermal Tech. 407-952-1200 1-800-991-5665 407-722-4144 They make them for the military, Australian miners, you name it. I work on stilts and last year was able to perform in 99 degree heat for 1.5/2 hours at a stretch. Saved the gig, could NOT have done it without the vest.
  • Take an athletic headband, wrap it twice around your wrist, and place a piece of ice between the two layers. The “sweatband” absorbs the water and, by keeping the wrists cool, it helps the rest of the body cool too.
  • For staying cool, wet cloths work for about one minute. Then as your body heat warms up the cloth, you must turn it to the cool side. It worked out that I had to roll the thing over between each and every balloon before it did any good. And even then, it didn’t help much. Later, I learned that keeping that soggy stuff against your skin isn’t a good idea. Unless you enjoy providing a breeding ground for all sorts of little microbes.
  • I bought a cold vest that freezes at 55 degrees and it keeps me cool and dry quite well.
  • I have some updated info on the Thermo Tec ice vest or cooling vests. The new phone number is 407-259-2429. That is Florida. You will be speaking with Jack Fournier. Great guy. This is a vest that you wear under your costume. It is filled with a “blue ice ” type material that freezes at only 55 degrees F. As it melts, it absorbs tremendous amounts of heat and will keep you cool from 2 to 4 hours. You can “recharge” or refreeze the vest in a tub or cooler of ice water in less than 30 minutes for all day relief. I store mine in the deep freeze when I’m not using it. I use the extra capacity model, it sells for $199, the regular is $140, but will not stay cold as long. An exciting NEW product is the seat cooler. You just sit on it and it will help keep you cool. It freezes at 80 degrees F, so you can recharge it very easily and is comfortable to sit on. It cost $89. Should be perfect for balloon artist and face painters.
  • Another great product is We (Colorado Clowns) used it this weekend at the City of Aurora Kidspree. This system sprays a VERY fine mist of water in the air and can drop the temp 10-20 degrees. I strung it up high on the inside of our face painting and balloon twisting tent. Worked great. The clowns and the public really liked it and commented on it. I think I paid about $60. Uses just the water pressure, no electricity is needed. Of course this works best in a NON humid climate.
  • Great links describing a variety of strategies and modern products (including the vests) for personal cooling.

  • The cool vests are made by Talion Corp. in FL. They work great. I ordered the standard size & wore it for the first time this past weekend when the temp. hit close to 100!! I was able to work in the heat without feeling like I was going to faint.
  • I have had a cold vest for years and just recently I got a “CHILLY-WILLY POLAR VEST” . It is so much better! The ice vest that I had before had ice blue inserts across the stomach and back but nothing up around the neck and shoulder area. This new vest has industrial freezing gel, not the standard blue ice found in local department stores. This is all one unit and you don’t have to remove the packs. It’s very comfortable and the best part is this vest is cold all over, not just on the stomach and back and it is insulated on the outside to keep the cool towards your body. Also, it has a collar to keep your neck cold. This vest stays cool most of the day. It has been in the upper 90’s with high humidity every weekend this month and when I twist balloons in costume it keeps me cool all day. I couldn’t have worked in costume lately without it. The guy that makes them is Bill and his company is called HI NOTE MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT. He’s a great guy to deal with. His phone number is (215) 491-5117. I think the vest is about $145.00 and well worth it for entertainers in costume.

Car Washes

  • I work each week at a large car wash with boutique, shoe- shine, snacks etc. The customers know when ‘Magic Mike’ will be there because of the large marquee and advertising display — and because I’m always there at the same time each week. Couples, families and individuals come for balloons, twisting and fun. Customers come in at a steady rate but not in huge unmanageable crowds and leave when the car is done. There is never a huge crowd because they do not enter the boutique until the car is ready to enter the wash. Tips are great because they come expecting to tip for the balloons.

Theme Parks

  • When you go to see the resale folks, be prepared for one major concern of theirs: How much are you willing to give up to them. In my experience, Theme Parks know to the penny how much money the average customer spends in their park. If you are going to be selling balloons, and by this I mean figures not helium, etc…, you will be taking X dollars out of their pockets, and they want to know that they are going to get some of it back.
  • Expect your busiest days to be Monday through Tuesday, and Friday to Saturday. Sunday is a middle ground and you may make out all right, but Wednesday and Thursday you might just as well stay home and do laundry. The reason is that folks come to the parks usually for the weekend or the week. For the weekend, they arrive anywhere from Thursday night to Saturday morning, go to their hotel/motel/campground, and then try to get in some fast time at the park before bed. For the week, it’s Saturday night to Monday morning. Unless there are many parks around, like Universal/MCA/Disney/Seaworld in Orlando, or like LA and Anaheim, by the third day most of the money is spent and Mom and Dad are saying “You already have one back at the …”.
  • If after all this you still think it’s a sane idea, (I do, We’ve made $1400 in a 4 day weekend, before expenses, doing tips on Labor day weekend with no one coming on Monday :), then by all means go for it! But definitely try to get them to allow you to set up close to ‘game row’ or near a ride ticket booth (if they do things that way). This will get you in a high traffic, money in their hands, let’s spend it area. Definitely the place to be 🙂
  • I’ve also seen places that if anything’s ‘bought’ it has to be bought with tickets. They redeem the tickets for a surcharge and thus keep track of what you made. Try to hold onto as much as you can. You may have to pay a rental fee for the space, so try to get a short initial contract (3-5 weeks) with an option to continue for the rest of the season. That way you’re not stuck for the whole thing. Be prepared for a shock — Rents can run from $50/wk to $300 or more depending on the park. I’ve paid $150 for a Labor day weekend.
  • If you do a great show, and have been hired before, then ask for a joint meeting with the resale folks, and the General Manager. Make an offer s/he won’t want to refuse and see what happens. BUT!! – Before you suggest this, make sure you have all the information possible in your hands so you can make a good presentation. Especially, the rental amounts!
  • I’ve thought of selling balloons .vs. busking, but… if you need to share profits with the park, I’m sure they are going to want some kind of accounting as to exactly what is taken in. That means, if nothing else, ringing it up on a cash register, OR making out receipts. If you are working by yourself, that’s going to take a lot of your twisting time. That’s not all that bad, IF… you are just selling pre-made creations. If that’s the case, I think you would be better off getting ‘funny’ balloons, (geo’s, ribbed, doughnuts, etc) and a helium tank. You can still be creative with these, but… because of the size you can charge more, and you can pre make enough of them that being bogged down with a cash register won’t be all that bad. On the other hand, if you really enjoy twisting something special for each person that comes your way.. then I think this venture is going to be doomed.
  • If they start to waiver and begin to think that maybe they can use you, a possible ace in the hole is to point out what a magnet balloons are. If they have an area that doesn’t draw that many people, someone making balloons is sure to draw them over. Just be careful that you don’t get stuck in an area that is TOTALLY void, else you may never get anything going at all.
  • I have done work for a well known Southern California Amusement Park and they request 25 percent of the take. You have to raise your prices to accommodate for the commission or the only ones who will be making $$$ is the amusement park! But money can by made if you work it correctly!
  • You should tell them you should be paid as an entertainer and an attraction to the park. Then maybe they might think differently. Don’t sell yourself to them as a profit to them. Unless it’s for a charity. This is a case where you should not perform from the heart but from your head. “Don’t sell yourself short” as the others have said. I’m sure that Bozo who performs for Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire is not paying the park so that he can perform there. Why should you? You probably have much more talent than Bozo. He doesn’t twist balloons.


  • We are not allowed to do any balloons at our zoo. When we are hired for clowning, we have to do only face painting, meet and greet, magic, etc.
  • I have been asked to twist at a zoo, only to have an official of the zoo turn me away at the gate due to their policy of no balloons (choking hazard for animals). Make triple sure that the person who booked you has the authority to bring in your type of act.
  • To satisfy the worry about the animals somehow eating the balloons – (I thought you couldn’t feed animals at the zoo. Besides they’re not running loose on the sidewalks) – I twist at the EXIT, so I’ll only make them as the guests are leaving! If guests come up and ask, I’ll of course, have to ask all of them if they’re leaving for the day. If they say, no because they just arrived or are just stepping out for lunch, then I’ll politely decline and tell them that I can only twist for them when they plan to leave because the zoo won’t allow balloons within the zoo grounds and that if they trick me, a zoo employee will have to take it away because of the animals. So, I’ll basically, tell them to see the whole zoo first and then when they leave, to ask me for their most favorite animal or the animal they liked the best in the zoo so they can take it home with them!


  • Crowded parks work well. Try to find a place where there are tourists. Working outdoors in a non-festival environment, tourists seem more willing to drop money into a hat than locals. You want different people to see you every time you go out. Well, that’s not exactly right. Don’t pick a spot where the same people just happen to walk past you every day. You want a different crowd to walk past you constantly, but don’t change your location every day either. Some people will seek you out. Having the same crowd more than once is ok if they’ve gone out of their way to find you. They already know you want tips and are prepared to give ’em.
  • I was hired to entertain at a company picnic held in a big park in VA. I was twisting balloons and one of the park employees came over to me & told me balloons were NOT allowed in the park because it was a bird sanctuary! That was a new one on me. I have been in a lot of parks and never has this happened. Naturally, I quit making balloons, but I was more than a little frustrated because their were a lot of kids standing there waiting for their balloons. The employee even took the balloons away from the kids that already had them. I hope I don’t sound like I don’t care about the birds because, believe me, I love them, but what about the kids? The employee told me I should have received the park’s policy statement and list of rules, etc. etc. I didn’t and I don’t think the people who hired me did either, but that’s beside the point. Has this ever happened to any of you? Are any of you aware of an epidemic of birds choking on balloons?

The White House

Every year, the Whitehouse (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington,D.C.) invites twisters to make balloons for the annual Easter egg-roll on the south lawn, from 8:00am to 3:00pm.

  • The white house gig is a mixed blessing. Royal and I did this in 91 and 92. On the one hand you get this nice letter and photo from the White Houses’ press person, you get to put this in your resume, you will meet all sorts of nice entertainers and twisters etc, and you may never do as many balloons in one day. But there are drawbacks, you need to wake up really really early, you will have to go through the secret services security (open up that balloon pump so we can see inside), its a very very long day, you may never get a break if you don’t force yourself away from the crowd, you get to twist for 30,000 to 50,000 of your close-est friends (this is a public event, anyone who waits in line can get in), you most likely will not get to meet the President or other important people, your fingers will hurt….I hope I’m not sounding too jaded, but I did my time and it was a good experience and good press when we got home but then again we didn’t pay airfare or hotel (we drove and stayed with friends), but I don’t think I will ever do it again.


  • We were just hired on as part of the entertainmaent for a high school graduation party in late May. They are going to lock up about 300 members of the graduating class in one room from 11pm till 4am. The idea is to have a great party without trouble from the outside or booze and all that. Might be something like that coming up in your area.

Your own front porch

  • On several occasions I have given balloons out to trick or treat kids who come to the door on Halloween. Some years I offer either balloons or candy. I have found that lots of people prefer balloons and it gave some excitement as I could hear kids yelling ‘go to this house because they give you a balloon! I sit out on the front porch and greet all the kids as they come to the house. The first year I did it, I had several people come by and say what a great idea it was. One lesson that I have learned is that you need to make some balloons up in advance. When the word gets out, you will be very popular and on this night, the kids seem more impatient than any other time. (who can blame them!!)
  • I thought I’d just issue this little warning about being the “cool neighbor who does balloons.” Be VERY CAREFUL about when and where you decide to perform. NEVER delight the neighborhood children on your block. The 3 kids in my apartment building told the other kids on the block about me, and so my doorbells rings everyday … at least 20 times a day…all day long…. some of them ring the bell for 30-45 minutes straight … no amount of pleading from me will stop them. They grab onto me like little, vicious pit-bulls and hang on with the same sort of death-grip, pleading with me not to go to work, school, to eat, wherever, at the top of their shrill little voices … They blockade my door so I can’t return home and it’s all I can do to keep their little fingers out of the cracks in the door as they gather ’round like half-crazed groupies at a rock-n-roll show.
  • I made some swords and helmets for the kids across the street. They came over the next day (Sunday morning) at 8:00, rang the doorbell about 20 times (in a row, one after the other, you know, dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdong dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdingdong dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdong), and asked if I would make them some balloons. I explained to them that it was very early in the morning to be ringing anyone’s doorbell. I explained to them that ringing the doorbell in rapid succession is always rude. I explained that balloons aren’t free, and I can’t make them for everybody every day, just special occasions of my choosing. I explained these things as only a man awakened from a sound sleep by two kids pounding on his doorbell on Sunday morning can explain these things. I explained it so well that the kids now cower and cross the street when they see me. Now I only make balloons for neighborhood kids at neighborhood events – somehow, they understand there’s a difference between my making balloons at a carnival and making them at home. I don’t think they associate the man who makes balloons at a carnival with the grumpy old fat guy who needs to mow his lawn.

Indoor-Outdoor Work


Carrying Balloons And Twisting For A Smile

  • I carry balloons everywhere, you never know when you will need a sword or gun to fight off an attacker!
  • Twisting balloons wherever you are will change your life. People will offer you food, drink, work and move you to first class on the airplane.
  • I love my balloons and enjoy carrying them. I even carry them to the (Indiana) Pacer games and usually end up making a few wild hats and a ‘Boomer’ panther or two. Everyone around us always has fun! I have never got in a situation that caused any problems, either to me or anyone else around.
  • I am a hobbyist (not a balloon professional) and also enjoy making balloons for kids when I am out and about. I usually just pull out my balloons (sometimes rather dramatically) and start making a sculpture. The colors and noise usually get kids’ attention; if that fails, I squeak the balloon a bit as I twist. When I have finished the sculpture, I hold it out, make eye contact (if possible), and offer the balloon to a child by gesture (usually the child will come over to me to get the balloon). I then make sculptures for other children in the area. Words are rarely needed.
  • In the 17 years I have been doing balloon art, I have been in makeup and passed out balloon characters at major malls, events, whatever I wanted, and never ever been halted. This is because I didn’t take money, and I didn’t hand out cards. If someone wants your number, tell them to write it somewhere. I’ve had security look, stand, and stare, and wait for me to do the wrong thing and I didn’t! As one mall president said to me in his office, “I can’t tell you how to dress, or how to act if it is not offensive or a bother to people” They liked the entertainment too. If you just want to get out there to practice your art without ending up with a pile of balloons in your living room, you can absolutely go anywhere!
  • I am a hobbyist who makes balloons for fun. When each kid in the area has a balloon (I usually do one-balloon sculptures), I stop. I tell kids “There is a special rule: One balloon per child per day” and if they want another they need to find me tomorrow. Interestingly, kids seem to accept the ‘special rule’ idea better than a flat “one balloon per child” announcement. If a kid pops a balloon, I may or may not replace it (depending on circumstances). I usually will re-twist a balloon if it comes undone. The ‘special rule’ even works after I have given a child more than one balloon “I already broke the special rule of one balloon per child per day, I can’t give you another!” I try to avoid getting the balloons out when there are more kids around than I have balloons (or time to twist). It is not good to run out (so even if I have six balloons, I will not get them out if there are six kids, one may break).
  • A tip for beginners, and anyone looking to keep in practice, or just get a lift from making a kid smile. Bring a palm pump and a fanny pack full of 260’s to the pediatrician’s office the next time you bring your kids there. You’ll have all the practice you need. Eating out provides many more opportunities. My 5-year-old sons have met many a 5-year-old girl delivering all manner of balloon animals. Now if I could just convince them that they’re supposed to ask for phone numbers! 🙂
  • I carry balloons everywhere. I started to make a few to see what would happen. Most people just ignored me, but the kids were like little magnets. When approached I would tell the kids that I was just playing and they could watch if they wanted. I did not have problems with giving out balloons. When my plane was called, I gave the balloons to the kids present and out to the plane I went.
  • I need a pump to blow up balloons and therefore I don’t carry any around with me wherever I go. I bought a palm pump from T. Myers and also received a few 130 samples. The palm pump takes about 35 squeezes to fill a 260 which makes it reasonably useless to fill the thing entirely. However, it only takes 5 or 6 squeezes to fill a 130. This means that the palm pump can fill the 130s in the same number of strokes as the Qualatex hand pump (which I swear by) takes to fill a 260. The animals made from 130’s are the cutest around. They’re about 1/4 the size. This means that a 130 bee is perfect to go with a three petal 260 flower. The only small-problem is that 130s seem to be a bit longer than 260s (from a relative standpoint). I’m going to start carrying around the palm pump and the 130s. This way I don’t need to blow out a few bronchi to make a balloon on the spot!
  • I carry balloons with me in a small cosmetic pouch in my purse. I feel naked when I go out without them! My tellers at the bank and the people who serve me in stores and restaurants have come to expect something every time I come in. If I’m in a hurry I have to go through the drive through just so I can get my errands finished 🙂 I always try to warn the guard at the bank before I start. I startled one the first time I had a POP! I have helped out several frustrated parents by turning their childs’ tears to smiles. I have gotten a few parties from these contacts but nothing large.
  • I don’t carry balloons with me all the time. I do take them if I think there will be a need to have them. They can be great for conversation starters, or to soothe the savage child. I do not like to get in mob situations with them. I get into that enough while getting paid.
  • Do you pro’s find that people are just pleasantly surprised when you start twisting in such places, or do they expect a professional ‘act’ or whatnot, just as soon as they see you? I can twist a variety of things, but I generally stick to ‘safe’ places where there are adults to twist for, and where I can take my time. Tried it once in public for children and got ‘mobbed’ by three little kids. Although I’ve learned a lot since then, I’m wary of twisting in places you can’t walk away from. You can’t leave your airport gate (or the plane) if you become too popular.
  • You know, the thing you have to be aware of is… if you want to stop, then you can just stop. You don’t have to pass out smiles to everyone. Twisting on a whim is not working a gig. Not by a long shot.
  • When I twist publicly to practice or for fun, I make it VERY clear that I’m not working. I don’t get into character. I don’t run through my patter (unless I want to). When I’m ready to finish. I stop.
  • For the most part, people are understanding, and when you prevent lines from forming, in advance, you also prevent people who’ve waited for a long time to get nothing. You also prevent the management (at a mall, restaurants, airport, etc) from thinking that you are performing. (this may not work a D-land, but it does elsewhere.)
  • I carry balloons where ever I go (most of the time) so I can create when motivation strikes. I’m careful about where I create though, I don’t like mobs of demanding kids and parents, so I limit myself to places where I’m less likely to see lots of kids, although I love giving balloons to people.
  • Before you take out your balloons, evaluate the number and type of kids. Once you get started, if the kids get overzealous, it’s not impossible to call it quits.

How Come I’m Frowning After Twisting For A Smile?

  • The only time that I have ever had a bad reaction to making balloons was at D-Land. I was making balloons for the kids in line at “Wet Mountain”, and I was asked by one of the passing employees to please stop. He said that they do not allow anyone to ‘Perform’ in the park unless they are cast members. I explained that I was not soliciting tips, but he really didn’t care. Oh well, I was almost out by then anyway.
  • I often have a small bag of balloons in my attache’ case and one night after a work-related meeting I was at the bar in a fancy restaurant. A table nearby was celebrating a lady’s birthday. I made a bear holding a heart and gave it to her as a gift. It was the appropriate thing to do (as several people in the party, the waiter and the bartender said) yet I had a complaint written to the company I work for about the impropriety of making balloons.

A Smile Isn’t Enough For Me

  • Regarding giving away our talents and balloons. I have an aversion to always carrying balloons with me for several reasons:
    1. The ever constant threat of litigation, my performers insurance clearly states that if I am not working a job, than I am not covered for any accidents – children swallowing balloons, popped balloons hitting someone (like me) or any others.
    2. The reality that if I make a balloon for a child then automatically everyone within earshot will find me (those kids can smell rubber…) and will believe they have a RIGHT to a balloon. There will be no peace until everyone has one for themselves and their 15,000 children and grandchildren.
    3. The time factor. I am running a full time business being a balloon twister and decorator. There were many times when my husband and I would go out to do what was supposed to be a 10 minute errand which ended up taking an hour or more because we used to twist for kids in line at the bank, etc. My time is valuable and although I would enjoy twisting for many hours on end, my life and business won’t let me.I hate to be the only negative person responding to this query, but if you enjoy being the nice person making balloons at the grocery store and you have the time and desire (and possibly need the work or practice) please feel free, I won’t be offended.
  • I sometimes twist in public, but I absolutely avoid it any time I can be mobbed by kids, unless I’m willing to twist until I run out of balloons. Adults are rarely bad by themselves, but kids do mob, and having their kids ‘deprived’ of balloons seems to bring out the worst in parents. Of course, if I’m with friends, I usually fill the place up with inflations.
  • I don’t know why, but I never carry around balloons. Maybe it’s because deep down inside I feel I should get paid for my work and not give it away. I know that it would create good PR but I just have never done it.
  • I rarely carry balloons. I love twisting and entertaining, but when I’m just knocking around with my friends or going through day to day life I like just being myself, not the twister/entertainer, which is just a part of who I am and what I do. I feel balloons are worth more than just some trinket that’s meant to be given away.

I’m a walking billboard (Will Twist For Food)

  • Marvin Hardy has always taught his classes that they should ALWAYS have balloons with them. I carry them in a separate pouch in my portfolio bag. I put the money inside a giraffe whenever I go through a Drive-Thru, tuck bills into the ‘mouth’ of a poodle whenever I leave a tip, and put my business card in the hand of a squirrel when I see an opportunity to introduce my service to a potential clients. Last November, I amused myself and other passengers my making balloons while we were waiting for our plane at San Jose Intl’. Marvin swears that he has booked jobs in Japan with people he has met at airports.
  • Marvin Hardy points out in Out of the Part Time Frying Pan, Into the Full Time Fire that as an entertainer you’re always working. You find work in the most unusual places. If you meet someone new, or you’re just bored, what can it hurt to pull a balloon out of your pocket? Should you be expecting to get a job from someone because you gave them something cute? No. Should you be doing your full act in front of random folks in a restaurant line while waiting to be seated? No. But if you’re relaxed with a smile on your face, you look good to others, they’ll probably get the idea that you’re playing and not working, and who knows, you may get work out of it. I have. I’ve found no better advertising than to just do what *I* want to do with balloons in public.
  • If I’m in a line and playing with balloons, I’m probably experimenting with something, not taking requests. When people ask, I usually talk to them about what I do rather than make a lot of balloons. If I feel like it, I will make lots of balloons. I hand out lots of business cards, and I get calls from people that say that now that they’ve seen me playing, they want to hire me and see what I really do. I also try to limit this kind of thing to places where I know the management is ok with it.
  • I had my balloons with me the last time I got my hair done. I made the hair dresser a balloon and gave her one of my business cards. I just got back from a party that came from her telling them about me.
  • I am proud to say that I carry balloons 99 percent of the time and sometimes I am disappointed that I don’t have them the other 1 percent. I leave them on the table for the waitress with the tip and a card stuck in them and sometimes if there is a restless child, I make them one too. I can’t tell you how many bookings I have received from doing this. Once I got a restaurant job because when I stopped in to pick up a pizza a child was crying at one of the tables. I made him a balloon and he stopped crying. Everyone applauded and the manager asked me if I wanted a job!!
  • When we get together and jam in restaurants, we give the balloons away. People usually ask for cards and about our prices. I have gotten some good jobs that way.

When Is It Inappropriate To Twist?

  • Should I start twisting or not?
    Making balloons in public brings attention to yourself. Doing anything out of the ordinary will irritate some percentage of public . It is the risk an artist or entertainer takes every time he does anything in public. You have to learn to read the people around you. If you read the situation as bothering people, don’t do it. If you read it wrong and get asked to leave, well maybe you’ll read it better next time.
  • My ‘day job’ is serious and the twisting and clowning part of me needs to be elsewhere or I find people don’t take me seriously. If others twist and entertain everywhere they go, and they’re fine with it, that’s great. However, I’ve seen some people who appear to be needy for the attention, or who aren’t attuned to their surroundings. For instance, there were several people waiting for their cars to go through a car wash recently and one of them was twisting. For no one. The balloons kept popping and the twister was making the obnoxious rubbing sound balloons make. The two elderly women to my left jumped out of their skin and made faces each time one popped. It just seemed not a good idea, but the twister went on twisting. Maybe sometimes we lose thought that this sort of thing really can be obnoxious and not well received.
  • It annoys me if I go out for the evening and someone in the party asks me to make them something. I just think it’s inappropriate to make assumptions that way. If I do have balloons on me and I offer, then I see it differently. I wouldn’t ask a person who is a doctor at a dinner party to prescribe something for my headaches…. It’s the same sort of thing.
  • I try not do balloons when I see someone wince from the noise, or if I would be mobbed.

Festivals, Fairs, and Flea markets — Oh, my!

How To Find The Events

  • Every state has a main web site that you can find by using this link http://www.state.??.us/ replaceing the ?? with the state you are interested in two letter abbreviated name for example Iowa site is at On this page every one that I have ever looked at has a link to their travel site and on the travel page is a link to a calendar of events. Most of these have search pages that you can use to find events by area and dates, and these display contact numbers. I book all of my magic festival shows by these links. I worked at least one day every weekend this summer except two and those two free weekends where by my choosing, have to take a break once in a while.
  • Call the governors office and ask for a listing of fairs in your state. It will give you the dates the fair runs, the secretary’s phone number, and a mailing address. It also breaks them up into categories such as community fair, agricultural fair, and so on. I work a number of fairs and always charge for my services. If the fair wants a big number of hours I reduce my rates and they do let me accept tips but I don’t solicit them.
  • Most states have an “Association of Fairs and Festivals”, or similar organization. Back when I was working fairs, I used to go to the annual convention of several of them. One needed to be a member, which allowed you to go to the convention, buy a booth or rent a room, and sell your services (book yourself!) to the fair and festival organizers. They also have showcases where you can give a “sample” of your show (I booked an entire summer after doing a showcase), and some will charge a “roaming showcase” fee if you want to demo yourself by strolling during the convention.

Paying For a Place to Work

  • I worked from a table once on a small scale at a local church craft fair as kind of a mini-benefit for a local charity. (To give you a sense of scale, I paid only $6 for the table.)
  • My business deals a lot with festival promoters and the like. We often give them 10% of what we make, sometimes it’s more.
  • I have worked parks where they let me a) work for tips with no guarantee or b) work selling balloons and they get a percentage of the profits. Note I said PROFITS. This is after I deduct the cost of the balloons, etc. – no labor but just basic costs. If you do it this way the 15-25 percent commission you give the park is like an agent’s commission.
  • Be honest with them when splitting the profits, but cover your costs also. I have easily had 300-400 C-shell Saturdays and Sundays. Now on weekdays sometimes I am lucky to make 150 but considering the arrangements it is not bad work. If you figure your hourly rate you might be amazed. Maybe offer to give them their percentage of everything after the first 200 balloons?
  • Many events won’t allow you there unless you buy a booth or are a member. Fair conventions are a perfect example. Their purpose is to promote acts to their members, so acts join as “associates” and have the right to go to the convention. Some events even offer the acts a showcase, but only if they are members or buy a booth. Imagine if any perfomer could walk in off the street and start busking!
  • I’ve often paid for booths. It’s a bit different than busking, as you’re selling the creations as opposed to making them for tips. The nice thing is that while a line may appear, usually there’s more time to make the balloons, and because of that, it’s easier to do multi’s. You can charge more for multi’s, and once you get them out there into the “public eye”, you can do pretty well.
  • My only guess would be that performers who pay for booths are able to make back the investment. For example, I often busk at a flea market near a vacation area where I am frequently booked. On days off, I will often pay for a “booth space” (even though my “booth” is just me standing under a tree!). In this case, the fee is only $5. I make that inside of five minutes, so it’s a no-brainer.
  • I once crashed a flea market and began busking. I was very popular, with a line forming. The promoter got wind of it and very nicely asked me for a booth fee (more expensive, about $125). “You’re a good attraction, and I’d like to have you here, but it wouldn’t be fair to the others who have paid.” I had noticed a magician booked into the event, so I innocently asked him what the fee was to work the band shell; of course I knew darn well the guy was being paid, but I wanted to make my point. “Oh, he’s contracted to be here.” “Really!” said I, “I’m willing to entertain for free and you’re asking me to leave, and he’s charging you for the opportunity to perform. You’ve probably noticed that I’m attracting more people. Would you care to remedy the situation and book me for the day?” Naturally, he didn’t, but I think I made my point to him.
  • When I first began clowning, I paid booth fees to work at festivals, but normally not more than $45. I was offered a 10% deal by one and liked that better. I paid 10% of what I made.
  • Here’s why I “buy” booth space at special events on a regular basis. I participate as Heart Throb The Clown at 3 evening “Family Festivals” every week twisting balloons and painting faces. Two of the events are held on city streets and the other is in the parking lot of a major shopping center. One of the events is in its 7th year (it’s my 3rd year), another is in its 2nd year, and the newest one started in May, 1999. These events attract from 4-12,000 (yes I really mean 12,000) people every week. More than 2/3 of the attendees come at least twice each month. The events are focused on families and include a children’s area with rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, a train, and other kid friendly activities. They also include a farmers’ market, crafts, food booths, and live music. Everyone (the food booths, the craft booths, the farmers, the petting zoo, the pony rides, the children’s rides) pays to participate in these events. I pay a % of what I collect and I set the prices. The musicians are paid a very small fee and promote their upcoming events and sell their CDs. What am I paying for? A regular spot for my booth, electricity for my lights (these are all evening events), security, permits for use of facilities, and most importantly, the marketing that regularly brings people to the events. People who are ready, willing and able to spend money at the events (no admission charge) for food, kids entertainment and whatever is available. At my booth, I twist for and paint kids and adults week after week after week. I have lots of regulars and I get to know them and what they like. I also promote my services, book parties and special events and accept deposits. For many of the kids I meet at these events, I am “their clown” and they regularly tell their parents “I want my clown to come to my birthday party.” It is also a place where prospective clients can meet me, see some of my work and watch me interact with kids of all ages. I have earned many thousands of dollars at these events and have paid a small amount that earns me a big advantage. Because I am a vendor, I am free to discuss my services and prices while I am twisting and painting. (When I am hired by a client to entertain with twisting or other activities, my focus during that timeframe is to entertain and promote the client. It is inappropriate to spend time paid for by a client to sell future services.) I also twist balloons as a paid entertainer at a restaurant on Saturday nights. The balloons are complimentary but the manager has no problem with me promoting myself to the dinner customers. Many want to book my services on the spot but I tell them I am on _______’s payroll right now and can’t discuss detailS or fees, but please give me a call and I give them my card. I do get lots of bookings. Different venue, different focus. Whenever I am paid to entertain I always negotiate the ability to give cards to people who ask. In a large market with lots of people promoting themselves as entertainers, clowns, twisters etc. these regular venues allow me to stand out. This form of personal marketing/advertising is unique – people pay me while I’m marketing myself.
  • I know a festival here that I would KILL to be able to sell my balloons at. There is a long waiting list. I know of a festival here in Gilroy, CA where one balloon lady was paying $500 for a booth for 3 days. She was selling mainly mylar balloons, and in only 3 days she would sell $12,000 worth. That is where the money was.

Getting Paid to Work

  • The hard part of festivals is getting approval from the festival coordinator. There’s a gray area between doing balloons for tips and selling them. Balloon vendors pay to be able to sell there. You may want to pay for that right also. If so, start early talking to festival coordinators. This year I didn’t start early enough and the big festivals have already booked their vendors.
  • You have to approach these people months in advance and not weeks before the event. Go have a meeting with them and bring some balloons.
  • If they hire entertainment, try to sell yourself as clowns that twist balloons. If they don’t hire entertainment, try to sell yourself as clowns that twist balloons. If they don’t know what you are talking about and you want to twist for tips, offer free entertainment (balloon twisting) and sometimes people tip you.
  • I don’t understand why entertainers are willing to pay for booths at public events, arts and crafts shows, fairs, festivals city events etc. Busking is one thing but to pay to go to a event is another. I can understand busking and even getting hired (is that not we are in business for). We are providing entertainment for these events. They should pay us or at least let us pass the hat.
  • Offer to help them ‘promote’ their event by being there (and by the way, would it be OK if I accepted tips?)
  • On the west coast there are many performers that buy booths at events and markets to promote themselves, and then add those events to their resumes as performances. I have been a performer for over 15 years and it still amazes me that these folks will buy booth space to do balloons, when if they only had a clue, they could get PAID to do these events. Promoters pay for this entertainment – they have in the past – as I have made a good living doing this. But now a lot of promoters won’t hire entertainment because there are so many of these folks willing to pay them!
  • I cannot charge for my balloons without getting into the tax thing, but I can entertain them by twisting a balloon for them and receive a tip. Therefore, I feel I am classified as an entertainment, and should not have to pay to be there – I should be paid.
  • What’s this I hear about people PAYING for a booth at festivals!? I’ve been at this for 6 years and do many festivals a year and NEVER pay for a booth–I don’t even need the space size to twist. I always agree to work for tips and I do very well. In a few cases I agree to donate 10% in exchange for a booth fee, but only maybe a couple festivals out of all the ones I do in a year. In one, I put up a balloon arch and they give me a space and table with skirt, but it’s on the end and in clear view of everyone–it’s also the festival that I get the most parties from! I’ve now been referred to do another festival the same promoter puts on!! Do some talking, but NEVER PAY FOR A BOOTH!!!!!
  • I’ve been lucky, I have not had to pay booth fees. I have known owners of businesses in the area of the festivities and they let me set up and accept tips or sell, whichever I prefer. Ask the businesses near the festivals if you could set up. Not only could you make money selling or whatever but you would also promote their business. If you’re in a field somewhere then check businesses out that would sponsor you. Let them pay set up fee while you advertise for them and sell your balloons and face painting at same time.
  • I never pay to play. You have to decide for yourself. It could be a good thing if you profit. I think the increased festive atmosphere from you being there is the event’s benefit. Asking you to share the fruits of your labor is asking too much. Maybe try it for a week, with the understanding that if you don’t like the arrangement, it can change. Although, it’s hard to get greedy people to let go of a free lunch.
  • All of the fairs that my husband and I have done have been based on a decent pay from the fair itself and being allowed to accept tips. With that many people, you should do very well!
  • Yes, you travel a lot, but can often write the expense of motels into your contract. Charges work out quite a bit differently, as you will be often asked for a “daily rate” instead of hourly or per-show. I’ve priced by hour, number of shows, and even entire weekends. Tips? Maybe, maybe not, although I like to get paid rather than hustle tips at such events. It’s up to you and your personality. And, no, tips are not most of my income. I like to get paid by the promoter or event planners.
  • Charge for balloons and pay 20% to the amusement park? So if you charge 1 C-shell for each one-balloon animal and pay them 0.20 C-shells after you cover the cost of your balloons and make up and wear and tear on your costume not to mention gas and your time to prepare — what have you got left? maybe 0.65 C-shells!!! I don’t think this is a wise arrangement. If you charge anymore for a balloon, you run the risk of not selling any! Sell yourself!! You are worth more than that!! Look to some of the wonderful restaurants in the area. There are some there that would be willing to pay you an hourly wage as well as allowing you to work for tips and do it in plain clothes and might even throw in free food and drink or coupons good for future meals. Don’t sell yourself short! You have a lot to offer to this amusement park and to restaurants as well. I think you should respectfully decline and explain that you thought you could work together but it is not possible to do business under those terms. Smile, shake hands and take your leave. Leave your card and tell her that if she would like to discuss your original terms she can call you.
  • Be cautious of 20 percent I think I might tell her even agents only charge up to 15 percent and THEY get the work. However you wont know how it is until you try it. Here’s a tip (no pun intended), I worked in a large indoor flea market in FL. I was an attraction and should have charged them but we worked out a deal. They don’t pay me to be there and I don’t pay them to let me. I worked for tips and cleared three hundred a day. And that was slow season! I also had a booth at a local mall for one weekend. I had traded two days of me twisting for two days at this booth. I didn’t really sell that many balloons. Of course there are several variables there. The point is if you can do it for tips I strongly urge you to. If not, maybe reconsider.

Vending Balloons

  • This section is in the Vending chapter of the Guide. Please click here to find out about vending balloons.

Finding A Good Spot

  • I did a fair last summer, and learned quite a lot of it. The situation may be different, but here are my experiences. I’ve tried walking around for a couple of days, but I found that having a fixed place to stand works better for me. I need some room for the things I do, and when you’re just walking around, you tend to get crowded. I change places every so often, but there were spots where I remained longer, since I had a better response there. I did not charge a certain amount, but left it to the public what they wanted to give. The (financial) results were not breathtaking, but satisfactory.
  • We have two festival / streetfairs in my town and I usualy perform there in some form by doing either magic or selling balloons. I have found that I can walk around doing balloons and still make a fair profit, but I prefer to be stationary. When I work I wear a shirt with my name and logo on the back and a balloon hat of some sort. I keep the balloons in an old style leather suitcase along with my pumps, pens and cash box. Also on the box I mount different balloons to show some of the things I do, mostly the quick and easy ones that the kids are likely to pick ( but I always ask them if they want anything special). Furthermore I place the suitcase on a jumping stool (this is a well known magic/clown prop ) and I am ready for the kids, adults, teenager and whatever how just walkaround with “my” money. The jumping stool is a great thing when walking around, when the crowd gets smaller or when I feel it is time to move on to a different spot I just close up the suitcase, still with the balloons on it, make the stool jump by placing my foot on it and catch it in my other hand. This is a great closer for the onlookers that are not buying balloons and it gets attention from potential customers.

When Not To Work For Tips

  • I wouldn’t try to work for tips out of a booth at a flea market. A booth makes you the same as the other vendors. People expect a booth to be selling stuff.
  • If the feeling of the fair is Carnival and the Booths are like a Midway, it is very hard to work for tips. Everyone else is hustling for a dollar and in my experience, tips do not fit in. Tips work better in an arts and crafts type fair. Most of the people at flea markets are not there to buy things for their kids and they are tight fisted.
  • If you are worried about being taken advantage of, don’t work for tips. Tips means some people will give you a nickel or a quarter or nothing. If you get frustrated, it’s no fun.
  • I had always wanted to work a large flea market, and last year I got the chance to try it. Another vendor brought me in, but I was working for tips. I barely made gas money to get home! I usually do great with tips, and I had a good location (I thought). Lots of takers but almost no tippers. It was my feeling that the people there were not there to be entertained but to shop for bargains. And THAT was their mindset. I probably will never go back as it was a totally wasted day.
  • Tried it and didn’t do bad at one and did terrible at another. Booked very little – seemed everyone thought flea market meant marked down, cheap, used and otherwise not a normal buy. On the other hand, I’ve seen flea markets that barely fit the name with the quality and price of items for sale — antiques and such. I guess it depends on the flea market whether it gets you any where for booking.

Booths vs Strolling

  • Talk to the organizers and work a deal to work as a roaming balloon artist. You could work for tips only and maybe they would waive the booth rental fee. If you stress that happy kids make parents stay longer and the visibility of the balloons would bring in more people. You could even offer to pass out helium balloons outside for a few minutes every hour to draw attention to the event.
  • Not having a booth makes you more of an entertainer and you should not have to pay anything to be there. They should be paying you to work for tips but sometimes it’s hard to convince them.
  • I’ve been asked to roam the crowd at an event that will have a few thousand people. I want to know what to expect here, and which of my pumps to use. When you do something like this do you truly end up walking around or do you ultimately end up setting up a station since the crowd comes to you?
  • I just approach people and start performing. Start twisting something. Don’t spend time trying to explain what you do or convince them they’ll enjoy it. They won’t know they’ll enjoy it until they see it. Most people will be curious about what you’re going to do and watch. Leave it to the group you’re twisting for to decide who’s going to wear it. Usually once one person is wearing one, others will end up wearing them. Even if they’re not interested in what you’re doing (or don’t think they are) very few people will be rude enough to stop you in the middle. By the time you’re done with an elaborate hat, they may well have changed their minds and decided they like what you’re doing. I run into the opposite problem you have. Once I make a hat, everyone wants one and I don’t get to do other things.
  • Whenever I get asked to “roam” a busy event I get stuck in one place. Knowing this is going to happen I try to start twisting in a place where I won’t mind being for the rest of the day! I also warn the people that hired me that this will happen and try to have them give me a spot where I won’t be interfering with anything else. If I do roam I use my battery pump from the Edwards Group (the best battery pump for roaming that I have used).
  • In my experience at major corporate family days, festivals, street parties, charity fundraisers, etc. where you have a potential audience of several hundreds or thousands, the audience will find you wherever you are. As I am sure you know, once you start, you will gather a crowd and you are “stuck” there for a time (if not the whole day!).
  • Being static has major benefits for you and your client. After all, the more balloons you are making, the more happy ‘customers’ there are and the better you are doing your job. You should be making balloons rather than walking! But, there is the problem of your client / booker. Moving can be difficult but can be turned into a plus.
  • Find out about the event and get the ‘big picture’ and show that you care by making positive suggestions. Perhaps suggest that you work static spells in 30 minute periods and then move to a new spot. If there are points where crowds are likely to gather (but where you won’t interfere with other entertainment) suggest you visit these in a rotation. Perhaps suggest you do an opening period near the entrance / registration area, then move to whatever, then near lunch work the food queues, after lunch by another spot and so on.
  • The plus in moving for you is that it gives you strength. Just being able to take a breather, refocus, refresh is a real plus at a long event. Chances are that you will be followed and the new audience at the new spot will bring an energy that is invaluable.
  • Whatever you decide, you may well have to find a way of moving your pump. I am sure there must be ways… you can have a trolley. Personally I find that having a ‘unit’ of some kind at a big event helps with the crowd control. It kind of positions me and defines my ‘stage’ and I can step back from it to gain some breathing space.
  • If you do “close” every 30 minutes or so, you will have to find a way of doing that. There have been previous posts on this list you should refer to. However, the answer does depend on whether you are a production line for a queue or an entertainment where you choose to give away the end product. As an entertainer I prefer the latter approach and it also makes ‘finishing’ easy. If you have kind of decided in advance where you are likely to work, you can write out your own itinery which allows you to look at it and say that you are sorry but you have to stop after the next one as you are due at the monkey house / food tent / ski-slope in 10 minutes (or whatever).
  • Make a balloon on the way into a festival for the first person you see and then see if you can move from that spot! This is a lesson learned the hard way several times, I am a slow learner. At one festival we just parked the car in a spot “approved” by the parking attendent but not where people were supposed to park. To thank the attendent for allowing us to park there I decided to make a balloon hat for him while they went ahead to our spot. Well for that four hour twisting gig, I was making balloons by the parking lot. One unfortunate thing was the festival was giving horse drawn wagon rides from one end of the park to the other. Everytime I thought I was going to be able to get away another wagon would pull up with 10 more kids. I did better the next day, I refused to make balloons until I was almost to our spot when I saw a coworker with her daughter. I stopped to converse and give her daughter a hat and spent the next four hours only 20 yards from where I was supposed to be. At least this time I could see the rest of my family. It has become a joke with them, let’s see where dad will end up this time. I have even spent one downtown festival standing in the middle of a street (traffic closed off) in the rain (light mist) and could not get the line to end so I could move to shelter. Just so you don’t think (I know you don’t have to think it, a lot of you know it!) I am a total moron, the rain only lasted 15 minutes and standing in the middle of the street in October in Wisconsin is not too bad.
  • I was at the grand opening of a WalMart in Athens (Texas). I walked in the door and headed toward the racks of clothes intending to single out families with kids and move through the store. I made it to the middle of the main aisle before I was cornered, and then spent the next four hours glued to that spot.
  • I have found this “stuck in one place” problem as dependable as death and taxes. I’ve also learned to blame the mysterious and invisible “management” for just about everything! I need or want to move? “Hey, guys, I’m sorry but I need to ask everybody who really wants a balloon to follow me. I’m not supposed to be standing here.” Nobody ever asks, “Who says?”. “Hey everybody, I’m not supposed to stay in one place all day. Gotta move now.” “Hey sorry, but I’m not allowed to give balloons to babies.” “Hey sorry, I’m only allowed to give one balloon to each kid.” “Hey sorry, I was told to close this line at such-and-such a time.” Really, nobody ever asks me who’s making up the rules. Maybe next time I’ll try, “Hey guys, I was told I can’t do this unless you guys give me huge tips.” I think when you use the words “not allowed” people picture God standing there with a blaming torch, or a whole squad of policemen standing right around the corner ready to arrest every man, woman and child in the crowd.

Event Crashing

  • As a professional, I would never setup at an event without making advance arrangements to participate. I also get the event organizer to agree that I am their official (or at very large events one of several) face painter/twister (or twister) and ask them to look for poachers (people who just show up) and ask them to leave.
  • Do NOT just show up and start twisting until someone with a badge tells you to stop. Call the place and tell them that you will do walk around balloon twisting for a nominal fee. You are giving them this low price to help them out, but of course by giving them this fee, you will make up the difference in what you normally charge by accepting tips.

General Advice

  • I used to perform balloon sculpting at a fairly large flea market here in Tucson. They had a stage near a concession stand. We had a verbal agreement that I would come out and perform for tips. They would let any type of entertainer use the stage but you had to reserve the space or if it was not in use call dibs when you got there. Sometimes you could share the space with a musical act. I would use juggling and clowning to attract an audience then spring out the balloonies to get the dollar bill line going. When a child would try handing their money to me before I made the sculpture I would ask them to wait until I was done and if they wanted to help me they could wave their money in the air so everyone could see they were going to give me a tip. When a child asked me how much it costs I would tell them that it cost an astromical and comical amount that they could not possibly repeat to their parents. Most people were entertained by this little bit of business and would eventually figure out that a tip was appropiate compensation. One thing that I learned by experience was that if you made sculptures free to get the ball rolling, that you had to tell the kids not to tell their buddies that they got the figure for free! Most of these kids had parents who were vendors so they knew it was important to make money. They appreciated the special attention and their parents were happy that their kids had something to play with for a couple of hours. If their parents have a booth in your line of sight they will become a regular tip despite your attempt to tell them otherwise. Hand out lots of cards because these people have big families and they spend lots of money on their kids. Just because they are shopping for a bargain doesn’t mean they won’t see you as a professional. Once in a while you run into a whacko with an attitude but most everone else is cool. Friday and Saturday evenings are best. I would always avoid working hot days because the balloons don’t hold up well under those conditions. Make sure you work under good lighting so the balloons are easily seen. If suddenly your tips turn to coinage then call it quits. Take a walk or get something to eat. Then try it again with a fresh audience and attitude. Par for the course so don’t let it beat you down. Sometimes if it was just one kid with coins I would give them their one balloon and then make a big deal about not taking their tip. Then explain that an average tip was around a dollar but if that was all they had then I would prefer to not take their money and give them their balloon free this one time. This was very aggressive and would sometimes backfire with complaints to the management. Live and learn.
  • Anyone will spend money at a festival.
  • Work fairs and festivals and hand out business cards.
  • The crowds are going to be there because of the festival’s advertising. You don’t have to do any extra work to draw attention. You can do rather well if you go to every outdoor festival that you can get to. Plan on being there as many hours as possible. Once you start, you will have crowds around you for many hours.
  • Is it worth it? It depends on the event and the people there. I have made as little as 25 C-shells per hour average and as much as 50 per hour. There are some advantages. Like the ability to give out your cards, the possibility of getting your photo in the paper, being able to leave or move to another location if you want to (bad tippers or too hot or whatever). If the organizers like your work you can ask them to write a recommendation for your publicity flyer. Try it, you might like it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
  • We just did a Harvest Craft fair and did very well. It was myself plus a second with bags of assorted and extras of blossoms, smiley faces, hearts etc. We have an arangement with the fair that we do not sell, we work for tips, and they allow us a space for free. Each person had their own pump and balloon supply, and we shared a tip bucket (a 2 1/2 gallon red bucket). Attached to the bucket, we had an 8 1/2 x 11 laminated sign on a pretty balloonpaper (from the local Staples) with “we work for tips” in bold lettering and “2 C-shells,” “3 C-shells,” “5 C-shells,” “10 C-shells,” “50 C-shells,” “100 C-shells” underneath. You will notice we didn’t put a “1 C-shell” on the sign on purpose — most adults got the hint. We were just cranking balloons out as fast as we could for a total of 11 hours between the two days, and the take was over 1100 C-shells. We took requests if the kids knew what they wanted or let our imaginations roam free if they didn’t. No sad faces in the bunch.
  • I’ve done quite a few craft fairs. I twist, and the wife or kids face paint. For a 5 hour event I expect at least a 300 C-shell return just for the balloon part of it. If not, I drop it from next year’s agenda. But I’ve sort of gotten away from them all together because of the heat here in Phoenix. Inside events are great.
  • In the past we’ve done a lot of craft fairs. I like multi-balloon stuff, but I also treat it kinda like working for tips (with a line and all). One nice difference is that we’ve always set prices — per balloon used, per time consumed, etc. I try to get there early, set up, and get some balloons made to decorate the booth area. We use milk crates, tables, folding chairs and a Pump0, and we try to attach sculptures to as much as we can, and as many different types as possible. Then when people show up, we usually give a few away with the stipulation that they not tell anyone that the balloons were free, just tell them where they got them (no one has ever complained about that) If it’s slow early on, then we try to concentrate on getting some big stuff made (motorcycles, plutos, taz’s and such). Once folks see these they’ll start buying. We’ve almost always made back our booth fee in the 1st hour or so.
  • Why am I at the street fair? To sell face painting and balloons? No, not really. My real purpose is to market my services as a skilled professional family entertainer who makes awesome balloon creations and has lots of other skills. I make certain that the area around my booth is spotless, I give away free activity pages with a coloring section and a word puzzle section to everyone, and I make certain look and act the part so I get lots of follow up work for private parties and special events.
  • I don’t busk or work for tips – I do set a price for my painted designs and balloons.I set up a clown area with large umbrella (a must in the hot S. Cal sun), clown cart – I paint faces on one side and make balloons on the other side, my pumpo, two stools, and cooler of cold drinks. The physical set up is about five feet wide by 3 feet deep much smaller than most “booth spaces” and I can set up anywhere and usually prefer to be in the middle of all the action. Of course that doesn’t count the space for the line which can be very long depending on the event.

    When I contact an event promoter I sell them on including me in their plans – I attract lots of attention, kids (and their parents) expect to find a facepainter/balloon twister (or just twister) at these events. I don’t take up much room, and any other features that relate to the event.

    Since I don’t charge very much for what I do, I am willing to pay the event a % of my gross income for the day usually 10-15%. If they want more, then I have to raise my minimum price.

    My real purpose is to entertain people and promote myself for birthday parties and special events. Because I am an official part of the event, not just a person who wandered by, I am perceived as the professional that I am.

    I have been working these types of events for several years and do many year after year. Some people don’t charge me at all and some a modest fee compared to what they charge crafters and food vendors. And 10% for the opportunity of being an official part of the event and for the prime location – I usually get to set up wherever I choose since I don’t take up much space is a cheap price for what I get.

    At some events that also have a stage for entertainment, I offer to do a magic show which always includes balloons and end by telling people where they can find me – there’s always a line waiting for me – and I get someone from the event staff to watch my setup while I’m performing.

    I always have lots of business cards at these events and I give away activity pages with a coloring section and a word search puzzle section – I give these away to everyone even if they don’t purchase a face painting or a balloon. So I have something for free but my painting and balloons have a value – a minimum price that I’ve set.

    I also have an arrangement with a large Saturday morning Farmers Market that attracts lots of shoppers and I’m the only “kids attraction.” The kids want a balloon or their face painted and I get lots of birthday parties as a result. The 10% fee is well worth it.

  • I take a bottle of iced water to quell the thirst during the long stints, along with some breath mints so I don’t become offensive too. Add that to keeping the line moving as quickly as possible and put a business card in each creation to promote yourself.
  • When I am doing more than two hours at a time, no breaks, I like to take some hand lotion. I get really bad callouses if I don’t put lotion on. The lotion also helps a little with static control. I would also make sure to have my “Static Guard” or dryer sheets.

Car Dealers

  • What are some cool things to make for car store openings? Swords and flowers. And dachshunds. And giraffes. You might want to have some car-related stuff to decorate your performance area, but, in general, whenever and wherever I’ve twisted, people want my entire repertoire, and mostly swords and flowers. Don’t feel limited to “topical” balloons when you’re in a special venue. You can learn to make a VW bug (which *is* in the guide), and whatever car they ask for, make them a VW bug. Then you can use one of these explanations: “Oh no! This one was left out in the rain!” “That’s a Mustang JLV!” [Just Lika Volkswagen] “This is a Ferrari, but it’s travelling incognito.” “This one’s sick, it must’ve caught a bug.” “It’s young. Give it time to grow.” “It’s in its larval stage.” “It was a Cadillac, until it was rear-ended and smacked into a tree on the same day.” “EPA regulations require me to make more fuel efficient balloons.” “Here, take this and bug another twister who knows how to make an Alfa Romeo sport coupe.” “In the magic world of balloons, all cars look like this.” “Give it a test drive: if you like it, I can get the correct color and model by Tuesday.”
  • In April of 1998, I started working at a car dealership here in Houston. They have a very high volume of sales and needed a “glorified baby-sitter”. I don’t actually baby-sit but I do keep the kids entertained with balloons and face-painting (mostly balloons though). This is a great place to do balloons because it allows for you to shine (do your fanciest work) because you keep them occupied while mom and dad get sold a car. The salespeople and management love it. The clinging children shouting “I wanna go home” is a thing of the past and actually the reverse has happened: parents are coming to my lines dragging the kids away, and they don’t want to leave. So actually I’m helping to sell cars. Another great benefit that I have experienced is that this dealership has live commercials four or five days a week and practically every commercial they talk about ME! It’s really a great deal for everybody involved, the radio announcer gets good material to joke about, the car dealership gets to portray the “family oriented” business and I get free publicity all over Houston. And the pay, it’s really decent also, better than restaurants because I don’t accept tips or even push for them because that’s not why I’m there. I’m there as a service for the customers. Which is another good selling point when approaching the sales managers to sell yourself to them. The way I got into this was working through a restaurant where one of the sales managers saw me, introduced me to the sales director and I blew him away with some of my fanciest balloons when I met him the first time. I have worked at this dealership (Sterling McCall Toyota, Texas’ #1 sales dealership) every Saturday, holidays and 3rd Thursday (a special promo day) for over a year now. Imagine a steady income for an entertainer. I feel so blessed.

Radio Station Remotes

  • Consider offering your services to radio stations for live remote broadcasts. They love this because it adds to the value of their advertising packages that they sell. They may provide the transportation for you too. Although they will not want to pay you cash, they will trade you for gift certificates from some of their advertisers and even provide you with some fully produced comercials if you want to advertise your new service/hobby. I have done tons of work this way. It’s a great way to gain experience, exposure, ***fame*** and get some free stuff. Consider asking the radio station to buy the balloons you will use too.

Sporting Events

  • I just talked to a twister that sells balloons at hockey games. He wanders around the crowd like a peanut guy.
  • It’s impossible to keep the kids in their seats, even when you threaten them with “I only twist for the quiet, seated ones.” Definitely make up some figures ahead of time or at least have a large amount inflated ready to twist. I used a huge garbage can on wheels that fit inflated 260’s perfectly. The adults HATE YOU blocking their view of the game so you might find it better if you stay toward the back and have the kids come to you. Those intoxicated fans can be pretty tough.

Altitude Work

30,000 Feet (Aircraft)

  • With today’s current technology, the pressurization of aircraft cabins in particular, twisting can be done with only minimal problems. Basically, if you twist a balloon while in the airport, and someone takes it on a plane, you run a small chance of having the balloon pop. You see, the air pressure in a cabin is slightly less than what it is on the ground. So, the air in the balloon attempts to expand, causing greater stress on the latex, and possibly breaking it. This can be avoided by giving your creations a good “burp” prior to tying off. Also, try to avoid having the balloon inflated and twisted so tight that there is no leeway or give in each bubble. (You know how sometimes you make a doggy, and the tail ends up being very tight… this could be a problem.)
  • Once you are on a plane, then you run the opposite problem. Any balloon animals made in flight tend to wilt a little bit when brought back down to the ground. There are two notes that I need to bring up at this point… First, one message stated that when he twisted on a plane, he kept running out of space on the balloon, in other words, it would be too tight when working with it, and that would throw off the creation somewhat. This was not reported on just one of his creations, but most of them. So beware, and give yourself a little extra amount of tail until you are use to working in a pressurized cabin. Second, one note came to me that in the back of the airplane, where it tends to get hotter, he had balloons popping and was forced to come to a halt. We all know the effects of heat and friction on the latex balloons that we work with, so I will not go into that in this message. I would also like to add one more small note… When on a plane, noramlly you are flying above even the highest clouds, and the sun is shining brightly. The sun is stronger up there, as I am sure any of you can attest to if you had to sit in its direct glow. Balloons in this light are going to heat up quicker, and darker balloons even faster than that. Take heed, and attempt to keep the balloons out of the DIRECT sunlight while on the plane.
  • Once the plane has landed, balloon animals made in the previous airport should return back to their normal state if there was any change on the airplane, and those made in the plane may experience some wilting as a result of the airpressure increase.
  • One more little note… you wacky ballooners also told me what you have received from doing balloons in the airport and on the plane… some of them are:
    • Free first class upgrade
    • Free bottle of wine
    • Pictures of children
    • Cash tips (unsolicited, and attempted to turn back)
    • Phone numbers (I hear this is a good way to meet members of the opposite sex)
    • Job opportunities
    • Free candy
  • All twisters that replied gave an overwhelming response that this is a wonderful and enriching experience that everyone should try.
  • I have not had problems with balloons popping. The air pressure in the plane is approximately the same as on a high mountain. I did notice that balloons that I twisted in the air wilted a small bit when I was back it sea level pressure. I have quieted noisy children, gotten free things from the stewardesses and had a great time. I told one stewardess that it was a flotation device and she gave me a free drink.
  • I only had one bad experience on one flight when the person in front of me turned around and said that the noise of the balloon was disturbing him so would I stop it. I did.
  • I had a couple of balloons pop which startled people. Also I found that twisting them in the air that I have to adjust the lengths as I was running out of balloon for my twists.
  • I have made things for stewardesses, the pilot, and passengers. The stewardess once told me that she had many more flights before she got back home and hoped that balloon would last. (I give no guarantee.) People traveling have a lot to carry so I offered small things that they could put their arm through to carry, etc.
  • I had some inquiry about an electric balloon pump and I had to demonstrate it for the security personnel. I have only flown on Domestic flights in the USA. I have had people refuse free balloon sculpture at the airport because they said they would not be allowed on the plane. I told them if they tell the ticket agent that they are flotation devices that they will be permitted on the flight. The plane is not as pressurized as sea level so balloons I made on the plane wilted s small amount as we got back on the ground.
  • I have had a couple of people complain about the balloons. One said that the squeaking was disturbing him and he wanted me to stop it. So I did. Another person was annoyed by popping so I quit doing pop twists but they did not say anything to me.
  • Overall the response of people and crew have been favorable. I have received free drinks and appreciation from the stewards and stewardesses.
  • I have never had any trouble traveling with balloons, both domestically and internationally. On a couple of occasions in Europe my balloon bag was hand inspected, but that just resulted in big grins from the Customs Officers. 🙂
  • When I was without tranportation this summer my Dad sometimes drove me to parties and restaurants. After seeing how much balloons put smiles on everybodys faces and also how much money I made, he had me start teaching him some designs. This last week he was flying out of town on business and while waiting he was making balloons for free for the children and flight attendants at O’Hare. When he went to board his plane they ripped up his boarding pass and replaced it with one for first class.
  • Your altitude, unless they are going to Death Valley immediately after the fair, should pose absolutely no problem at all. Altitude and air pressure play little importance unless you are on a plane, about to get on a plane, disembarking a plane, or performing some other action that will change your altitude by more than 750 feet or so.
  • I went to the New York Northeast Clown Convention in August and on the way back, I pulled out some balloons on the plane and started twisting. Two little boys in front of me asked for several different requests which I did for them and when we were getting ready to leave the plane, the mother gave me pictures of her boys. The flight attendant gave me a bottle of wine for keeping the boys quiet. On the next connection, I twisted for several flight attendants and they gave me a set of ear phones for the movie. The balloons did get hot in the back of the plane though and they started to pop which made some of the passengers nervous at which time I stopped.
  • So far, ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS twisting on a plane. I make them up once we’re up, and upon landing, no pops (fingers crossed). Also, I soften them a little before each twist so as to allow for expansion room. Nothing extreme, but just squeeze the air down a little before each twist and it still looks the same. This leaves each segment not as tight and therefore the creation is slightly pliable (squeezable) for better travel and handling.
  • On the plane I get carried away with detail because I like to blow everyone away; it helps them expand their view of balloons!
  • I get all kinds of compliments and requests for cards like crazy. I know my cards are spread from one coast to the other and that’s just from flying between San Diego and San Jose–the flight attendants are from everywhere else.
  • One flight got me $125 (US) in discount coupons. Can you say, “really impress the flight attendants, especially the women” – they really love meeting us “twisted folk” and they melt when you make something really sweet or cute or something for one of their kids. Can you also say, “a great way to meet women!”
  • I carry my balloons in an open backpack, slightly hanging out so as to appear that I can’t close it! As you walk thru the airport, I get all kinds of looks and questions and eventually requests!
  • I’ve only had one experience with balloons on airplanes. I was flying Southwest airlines from Vegas to Nashville and had a balloon animal that I got from the balloon artist at the MGM Grand Hotel. The stewardess was not going to let me take it on the plane, for fear that it may pop. The captain just happened to be standing right there and told me it was okay. Just something to keep in mind.
  • On the return flight from T Jam to Salt Lake we decided to try try twisting on a plane. We were on Southwest Airlines. My brother and I must have had fifty figures going around the plane when it landed. Of them, I know one stewardess had four that she had latched onto for her neice and nephews. We had one pop, but, since everyone knew we were doing it, it didn’t bother anyone. One of the instructors mentioned that they always twisted in the airplanes. Whoever it was has my thanks. We won’t be flying without tying anymore.

Sea Level (Cruise Ships)

  • Balloons and cruise ships go together very well indeed. Folks on board are balloon-starved! If you can do things that are “different,” you will be quite a hit. I have done 3 cruises now, and the last trip I took an entire carry-on of balloons. I had a majorly good time blowing my brains out and was royally treated by the Crew and Staff. As for a book about getting hired, I have read and recommend “How to get a job with a cruise line” (catchy title, huh) by Mary Fallon Miller.
  • I took my balloons with me last year when I went on a vacation cruise. I was not trying to get a booking, I just wanted to have some fun making balloon animals. As it turned out there was a Shriner clown on the same cruise. Like most cruise ships, they had a children’s program and daily activities scheduled for them. The Shriner and I volunteered to do some entertainment for the children. The clown did his show, and I ended up making balloon animals for the kids and teaching the older ones how to make a few basic animals. I contacted the chaplain and got an opportunity to present Jonah and the whale as part of the Sunday morning service. Later in the week they had a talent show, and I volunteered to be one of the participants. I performed some comedy routines using balloons. I talked to some of the performers, and they indicated that there were agencies that specialize in providing talent for cruise ships. They also said that on the smaller ships, performers are required to do jobs other than just the evening shows. In fact, the staff person in charge of the children was one of the women that performed each night as part of a song and dance act. And don’t be surprised if your room is below the water line and you have to share it with other staff members. The larger ships usually have their performers only do shows. I didn’t ask, but my impression was that they would be more interested in entertainers that can do a stage show rather than someone who just works the crowds or does table hopping. At any rate, I had a lot of fun and a lot of opportunities to twist balloons.
  • I spent two years working for cruise lines. Every ship is different, and there are many roads to the ship. However the main one is via the ship’s Entertainment Director. You will need a good video of your act. If you have a headliner act or if you have a fill-in, they tell you what it pays. Many times you will be asked to take on other duties onboard, such as help run BINGO, games or other activites. You will get a share as pay for some things. Think of the ship as Entertainment Town, and you’re a partner of this town where all the townspeople work together to make the cruise a pleasant experience for the guest. Ship life is really a one for all and all for one. You must all pull together. It’s lots of fun. Some stay many years. Some just a season.
  • If you happen to be taking a cruise. Take your balloons with you – you will have a ball that everybody will enjoy. If you are trying to land a ship act, that’s the time to show your stuff. There will be talent shows and other ways. If you impress the Entertainment Director or the Captain, you’re in. The money isn’t great, but since you can’t really spend any out there, you should be able to hold onto quite a bit. If your ship is registered in another country and you stay aboard 18 months, then you have no tax. Of course most of your earning will not come though your pay check anyway.

Dive! Dive! Dive! (Underwater)

  • I just came back from a SCUBA diving trip. I took some 260’s with me and experimented some at 50 feet. Here’s what I learned:
    • Had to stop and think about blowing and breathing, since you can’t do both at the same time (Breathing requires a regulator and blowing requires NOT to use a regulator!).
    • 260’s aren’t any more difficult to blow up, except for the handling, since they’re wet and slippery to hold.
    • Once you inflate a balloon you need to let air out of your BCD (Bouyancy Control Device) to compensate for the additional bouyancy.
    • I was surprised to discover that the inflated balloons felt like water balloons in reverse.
  • Try twisting a 260 filled with water, and you’ll experience the same difficulties I had, except in reverse; gravity will pull it DOWN. With an air-filled balloon in water, the bouyancy pushes it UP! The air in the balloons were in “reverse gravity” – I call it “levity” 🙂 – so it tried to go UP, stretching the latex considerably at any twisted points. None of the twists held except the roll-through ones, as there was not enough friction (balloons were wet!) and the bubbles stretched (“reverse gravity”).
  • The underwater-twisted sculpture is much tighter at the surface (but I was surprised it didn’t burst). However, a straight balloon partially inflated would inflate itself considerably when allowed to ascend. This is due to the intense change of pressure — air at 33 feet depth is compressed to half its volume at surface, and to a third at 66 feet. I was at 50 feet, so you get the idea.) I suspect that if I filled a 260 with water and twisted it underwater (at the same depth), it would have worked just fine.
  • I have been a SCUBA diver for 10 years. I do several jobs for local dive shops as Bubbles the SCUBA Clown. This past October I made my first underwater balloon dog during the annual Treasure Hunt. If you are going to try it, you need lots of extra weight because of the bouyancy of the air in the balloon. I inflated mine using an inflator tilt valve attached to my low pressure inflator hose, normally attached to the BC for bouyancy control. Someone asked about using scuba tanks for balloon inflation. I built a box for my tank to fit into with a tilt balloon inflator valve on top. The 80 cubic foot tank with 3000 psi will inflate about 1200-1500 balloons (260s) depending on the size inflated. I put wheels on the box and use it whenever I do big jobs. For small parties I mouth inflate. I do a fall carnival where I used 2 1/2 tanks in November. SCUBA tanks hold compressed air and are excellent for filling the balloons. How else can one write off diving expenses as business expenses? I am trying to convince my wife I need more dive “Balloon” equipment.

Not enough for ya? A book called Balloon Biz by Norm Barnhard has 53 places to try. Good luck!

SKB 2/11/96
SKB 9/15/96
SKB 9/25/96
LM 12/?/96
LM 1/29/97
MB 4/4/97
SKB 6/16/97
WNL 11/11/97
MB 7/11/99
SMB 3/26/00