I attended my first event, at that time known as the Qualatex Symposium in Paris in 1996!
This was my first great 'balloon adventure' since I started my balloon business 5 years earlier. I had previously attended several 1 day courses in the UK, but I was always left feeling that I wanted to learn more!
On the 7th March 1996 my business partner Rosemary and I jumped into my little Mini car and drove all the way to Paris (France), full of excitement and anticipation of what the next 4 days would hold for us!
But we did not just go to attend the many different classes (45 in total to choose from) or to see the 12 amazing line-up of instructors, oh no, that would be too easy, we decided that if we were going to go all that way, we would enter all the competitions too! That included a large sculpture, buffet and centrepiece design... were we mad or what!
|Images Balloon magazine|
Having never entered a competition before, I spent many weeks, day & nights looking through back copies of Images Balloon Magazine, a truly wonderful resource and inspirational magazine and at that time my ONLY resource for inspiration! I spent hours looking at past industry events and competition entries in the vague hope that I might be able to create one of my own! It's a little different today, as we have so many more resources available, the internet offers us worldwide access to websites and our very own Qualatex Facebook group is a haven of shared pictures, where we can see many exciting designs being posted each and every day! And of course we still very much look forward to receiving our Images Balloon Magazine and finding out the latest and greatest news and idea's from Qualatex!
The first part of our 'Paris' adventure (not including the actual journey... no stat nav in those days and driving on the 'wrong' side of the road proved interesting from time to time), was to build our large sculpture, a desert island, with palm tree, treasure box and skeleton! It was a great first attempt (we thought so anyway) and we were both VERY proud of our efforts, but looking around at the other sculpture entries we could see that we still had much to learn... but hey, that was why we were at the event!
Taking part in the competitions was the best thing that I ever did, I made so many great friends, the camaraderie was just amazing!
The classes were fantastic, for the very first time I attempted to work with 260Q's learning from the wonderful Marvin Hardy. Each day was action packed, I attended both design and business classes and still have all the class notes, which is both useful and relevant today.
The journey home remains both vivid and memorable, we were both so full of excitement and exhilaration, as we arrived at the french port we saw our ferry sailing off into the sunset (yes, we had missed it), instead of being frustrated at missing our ferry. in the 2 hours that we had to wait for the next one we managed to fill my tiny little car with 260Q 'creations', and howled with laughter every time a balloon popped...the car became steamed up, with balloons pushed up to the windows. I am sure that everyone around must have wondered what on earth was going on!
|Marvin & Penny Hardy|
The European Balloon Symposium Paris proved to be the first of many events that I attended as a delegate, my next was IBAC 13, the International Balloon Art Convention in Chicago which I attended the following year, once again I entered all the competitions and this time I was rewarded with a 1st place for my centrepiece entry, I was amazing how much confidence I had gained in just 1 year!
|Ist Place Centrepiece Design 'Birthday Bear' - created by Sue Marston-Weston, CBA|
So, I return to my original statement 'Balloon Events, are they worth the investment to your business'?
I can only tell you from my own experience and my answer is a resounding yes! The knowledge and experience that I gained in those few short days gave me so much confidence to promote, grow and run my business. I met and made friends that remain great friends today. My balloon business went from strength to strength and my profits started to seriously grow!
I would love to hear what attending a balloon event has done for you and your balloon business, please feel free to leave a comment below.
There are a number of great events around the world, including the Qualatex Event, Oxford, England 5th-7th November this year, and the World Balloon Convention, Dallas, USA 21st-25th March 2012. Both these even will inspire you and take your business to a whole new level!
This short DVD clip is from BACI - Balloon Art Convention Italy and gives a little taste of a sculpture competition.