Monday, December 22, 2014

Seasons Greetings from The Very Best Balloon Blog.

Wow, I cannot believe that it's almost Christmas, where does the time go!

2014 has been an exciting year, with my personal highlight being the World Balloon Convention which was held in Denver earlier this year. I love the energy and excitement, meeting up with friends old and new, the awesome decor, and the fantastic camaraderie between instructors and delegates. How can you fail to go home fully charged and ready to take your business to the next level? It works for me every time! 
So on a WBC note, I hope that you have all started to save for WBC 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana, this is going to be one amazing convention, you won't want to miss it!

Earlier this year The Very Best Balloon Blog celebrated reaching over 500,000 page views, which for me was so exciting! I love writing the blog, sharing ideas, designs, business tips,  and the opportunity to interview some of our ballooning superstars! I get such great feedback from you, so thank you for taking the time to read the blog and for leaving comments, it is very much appreciated! 

Finally, I would like to wish you a Happy Holiday and a very Merry Christmas! Let's look forward to an exciting and prosperous 2015!

Happy Ballooning and see you next year!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Be ready for the BIG job! The Design! Part 3/3

The Design!

So finally the design. Last year the theme for this Christmas event was not Christmas but all the glamour of Hollywood...“A Night at the Oscars”! No helium balloons (what a relief as this would just be added complication especially during set-up) so all the balloons are air-filled! 

I would like to talk about how I started my design process for last years centrepieces.

I always start with ‘Google’ and do an image search. This will give me lot’s of ideas to work with; however, Pinterest is also a really great source of inspiration too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Be ready for the BIG job! 2/3 Price and contract

Here is the second part of my 'Be ready for the BIG job'... looking at the business side.

Before we talk about the design, let’s looks at the business side of a job like this and everything that we need to include when working out our costings. We need to make sure that we have accounted for everything!

Material Costs
Labour Costs
Other items

Material Costs - all the elements that we use to make the design, including balloons, accessories, design structure - such as Lomey products or containers.

Labour Costs that include preparation & assembly time - the time that it takes to prepare all the elements for each of the centerpieces. How many people do you need to work, how many hours of prep?

Van Hire - I will need a large van to transport as many pre-made centerpieces as possible, however, some will require ‘finishing’ on arrival.

Van loading - loading and unloading 80 centerpieces will take time, especially if you want them to arrive safely in 1 piece!

Travel time to venue

Unloading - (see van loading the same will apply).

Finishing and repair time on site - there are bound to be a few casualties so be prepared!

Parking Fee - check out parking at the venue, especially if you have a van and review any fee’s.

Refreshments - keep your troops happy, with food and drinks.

De-rig - the removal of any remaining centerpieces after the event, which will also include labour time & mileage.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Wonderful Step by Step Snowman Balloon Wall from Luc Bertrand CBA

I love balloon walls and the fantastic impact that they create! A balloon wall can be used in many ways; as a backdrop for an entrance or stage, they are also great for photo opportunities, everyone will love to have their pictures taken standing in front of it! Balloon walls and Qualatex Quick Link Balloons® are the perfect combination making them easier and faster to build!

Luc Bertrand CBA, WaW Balloons, Belgium shares his wonderful Qualatex Quick Link & 5" Balloon Snowman Wall.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Be ready for the BIG job! 1/3 Organisation

Does the thought of creating and supplying 80 centrepieces instead of 8 for an event fill you with dread or excitement?

I love to create exciting and detailed centrepiece designs, but these are not always practical, especially when you need them in mass! I have had the honour at previous events such as IBAC and the World Balloon Convention to design and create the "Final Night Gala" table centrepieces and have learned a number of very valuable lessons along the way:

  • Keep your design simple but stunning.
  • Don’t use too many complicated techniques.
  • Use elements that can be prepared in advance like air-filled 4” & 9” Microfoil® balloons. 
  • Make sure that you can achieve what you set out to do in the given time!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Matt & Celini McKinney tell us how using the AeroPole System has saved them Thousands of Dollars!

Balloon Arch by Balloon & Party Events, California
Everyone's talking about the AeroPole System and how easy it is to use with fantastic results every time! No more risks of 'failed' Arches due to insufficient floating time or bad weather bashing them to the ground!
Matt & Celini McKinney of Balloon & Party Events, California, are great advocates of the AeroPole System, and they have very kindly agreed to share their experience working with it.
Balloon Arch by Balloon & Party Events, California

"Our balloon business has run much easier since investing in the AeroPole System. Now we can create ‘helium looking’ Arches that last longer and hold up better, even in the wind and the rain. The AeroPole System is a real time-saver; allowing us to book more jobs simultaneously. Because we can pre-inflate and build the modules ahead of time, we can transport and set-up more events on the day of the event. Assembly is so fast, our clients marvel at how their events comes alive almost instantly.  We rarely sell helium-filled Arches anymore and have saved thousands of dollars on helium costs. Thousands!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Interview with Treb Heining and Bill Schaffell of AeroPole System

Treb Heining
The AeroPole System™ is the brainchild of inventors Treb Heining and Bill Schaffell. As the pioneer of the balloon decorating industry Treb Heining combined his skills and knowledge with long term friend and colleague Bill Schaffell who has 30 years experience in the special events industry. Between them they invented the Aeropole System™ which allows balloon professionals to create classic balloon décor without the need for Helium. 

Bill Schafell showing the AeroPole System.

I recently had the privilege to interview Treb and Bill, where I took the opportunity to asked them both about the AeroPole System™, how they came about inventing the system plus how they see it being used now and in the future with some other great ideas and applications that they have planned for it, plus much more, including setting up tips and hints!

A few key points to remember:

  • The AeroPole System is flexible, it will perform (move) outside in the same way a helium filled arch would, it is not ridged like an arch that is built on a conduit frame.
  • Ensure that you tape the sections together with gaffe tape to prevent the poles pulling apart in windy conditions.
  • The base plates that are supplied with the AeroPole System weigh in at around 30lb's/13.6 kilograms each, but it is suggested that in windy conditions additional weight should be added at the base to ensure that the arch cannot blow over - wind is an unknown, we never actually know how windy it can become, make sure that you are prepared!
  • When placing the AeroPole onto the pins, be sure that the pole is straight before sliding it onto the baseplate pin. If it slides on easily, then you know you did it right, if it binds up then stop and don't force it. It should slide on easily, and it will when it's in-line with the baseplate pin.
For more great information regarding the AeroPole System visit

We would love to see your great designs using the AeroPole System, please send these to

Happy Ballooning!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - Elegant decor design ideas with Dazzling Snowflakes!

I would have to say that the new Qualatex Dazzling Snowflakes Holographic Microfoil® balloon has to be one of my favourite winter balloons this year!

Dazzling Snowflakes #20263/ #20260
I'm not sure if it's the 6-Point Star shape, the design, the Holographic effect or all of it, but they are such an elegant balloon that is perfect for all winter events!

I am very excited to be decorating a corporate Christmas party this year and the Snowflake balloons will be a huge part of the decor, I will be using them for the centrepieces and a feature arch! I will share the end result after the event, but I am sure that it will look amazing!

This balloon shape is also perfect for connecting together, allowing us to create stunning air-filled mobiles, which I think are perfect for venues with higher ceilings and good fixing points. Once positioned they will gently move around, and the Holographic elements will sparkle in the light!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taking personalised balloons to a whole new level.

Owning a machine that can cut vinyl and other materials has transformed the way that I think and work, because now everything is possible!

About a year ago I was contacted by a customer who had been referred to me by another balloon company. Their request was for something that was not available or achievable within the given time frame, and even then I am not sure that it would have been possible, so I had to choose, do I tell the customer that their request is not possible or do I tell the customer that although we cannot provide exactly what they were requesting we can certainly make something that I believe would work well!

The client had a deadline, it was less than a week away and therefore they were happy to listen to my ideas and suggestions.

I started out by creating an 'artists impression' of my idea. I like to do this as it means that I can quickly make a graphic of a design on my computer to show the customer what my idea's are without spending time making up a design that they could easily reject.

I don't use any fancy program to do this I simply use a basic draw facility in word or pages depending on whether you use a PC or a MAC, although I have recently purchased Deco Builder which is a very comprehensive design package specifically for the balloon industry, that allows me to create even more sophisticated designs to share with my clients, but I still use my basic version too especially when I am playing around with ideas and colours!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Part 6 Beginners Guide to the Elements and Principles of Design - Unity & Harmony

I would like to conclude this series of blogs by taking a look at Unity and Harmony.

Unity refers to the relationship and incorporation of all the elements in a design or decor such that it imparts a sense of wholeness or 'oneness'.

I find it very easy to create unity when I am working with Qualatex balloons as many of the balloon designs co-ordinate... let me show you what I mean.

Here is a really obvious one to start with. Let's say that we want to create a design with a farming theme for a birthday, look at all the balloons we can use, and there are others too!

The Very Best Balloon Blog

Anne Cahill McGovern made a great design using a selection of these balloons, along with added texture with a little raffia added into the base, this design demonstrates perfect unity!

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Day Facebook Challenge - a little bit of ballooning history from Treb Heining!

I wonder how many of my Facebook friends were asked to participate in the 5 Day Facebook Challenge?

Along with many other ballon artists I also received a nomination by one of my Facebook friends to post one of my designs everyday for 5 days and to challenge another balloon artist to do the same on every one of those 5 days! My initial reaction when I received this request was to question why, however, it became apparent very quickly that this was a fantastic opportunity to see some incredible balloon decor and in some instances some magical stories that accompanied them.
Snowmen in the Snow by Sue Bowler CBA
For me selecting which pictures to post became my own personal challenge, how do you decide which 5 designs reflect you and your 'ballooning' personality? I chose a selection of pictures that held a special memory or had a story linked to it... like the snowmen that I made on a day when we were literally snowed in to our home... no escaping for a few days! These little snowmen stayed in our garden for 3 weeks, at some point they were completely covered in snow, but even when the snow melted they had survived their ordeal!

The reason I decided to write this blog was because one artists 5 day challenge really stood out for me, don't get me wrong, I have loved each and every picture that I have seen posted by other artists, but this artist has shared a little bit of ballooning history too! 

The problem with Facebook is that a post has a very short shelf life and after a few days or even hours they can disappear never to be seen again! So, with the permission of Treb Heining I have reposted his 5 days of picture posting along with some of his very magical stories!

So here it is, Treb Heining's 5 Day Challenge!

Okay Cam Woody - I accept your challenge and since I am a huge fan of his work, I challenge Luc Bretrand to do the same.
To start - I have posted one of our early projects here. Thought it would be interesting for everyone to see what equipment we used when we first got started.
The first photo shows a table with all the equipment we used to create balloon decor in 1979.  
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It includes: Belle Gold blower, helium valve, dacron line, finger tape, ear protector, dykes and paper clips. Add balloons and skill and you get what you see in the photos. Total cost for this equipment in 1979 = $160.00
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The project I am featuring took place in 1979 for the University of Southern California (USC) Homecoming. I had just started my business and really didn't know what I was doing but did know how to produce balloons quickly. Worked with a crew of 4 or 5 people and turned this out in under three hours. I remember that when we started, it was still dark - in the early AM - but had to be done by 9 AM. This area was where they held the "President's Party" and this display caused quite a stir. Balloon columns/arches were brand new and this type of work had not been seen by very many people. Needless to say, this is how our word-of-mouth business started and our association with USC lasted for more than a decade.
Basically just four big arches all connected - going from the ground to the upper balcony of the school library and then connecting again from there. 

- Couple of additional photos of other USC Homecoming displays -
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The Very Best Balloon Blog

Second day of challenge...
Cinderella re-release party at Warner Brothers lot - 1987
This was back in the days when Disney was re-releasing their old movies into movie theaters and would have elaborate parties - invitation only - for their "A" list of stars and celebs.
We got a call late in the afternoon to decorate this 200' X 200' tent the following day. A scramble to get product, crew etc. on top of the fact it was raining like crazy.
This still is one of my favorite pictures of very simple classic balloon decor - of course Cinderella's coach makes all the difference...
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Day three of my challenge
Neiman Marcus Fashion Show - Caesar's Palace Pool - Las Vegas 1981
The Very Best Balloon BlogThey use to have an annual Gran Prix auto race (1980/81) in the parking lot adjacent to Caesar's Palace. The first year (1980) we were hired to provide a series of arches that were marched around the track for the opening parade.

The Very Best Balloon BlogOn the second year (1981) we planned the same effect but did an American flag pattern with the plan that it would be unfurled in front of the crowd during the national anthem. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those blistering hot days in Vegas and the balloons looked great at the beginning of the parade but not so good at the end. (you can see the heat starting to takes its toll in the photo) 

In addition to the flag effect, Caesar's had contracted us to build an effect for that nights party that was held in the pool area and featured a fashion show put on by Neiman Marcus.
I have included the artist rendering we did for this effect which consisted of a series of seven arches that would provide a "ceiling" for the entire area.
I often used artist renderings to sell our work - especially in the early days - as people just didn't understand what I was talking about when it came to balloon decor/effects.
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To make it extra special, we ran a series of C9 chaser lights through the columns so that the balloons not only lit up but also "moved" when you hit the chaser button.
This was the first time lighting had been added to balloon columns - kind of a high profile event to try something of this caliber.  

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So to be clear - we started very early in the morning to build the balloon flag effect for the parade - marched this effect around the track in temps approaching 100 degrees - brief lunch break and then built the lighted effect.  

The lighted column effect was created with 14" helium filled balloons. We inflated everything in the main ballroom of Caesar's and waited until very late in the afternoon to take each column/arch out to the pool area.
When we ran the chaser lights through the columns in the ballroom, the weight of the lights equalized the lift from the helium and it was only when we added the five foot balloons that there was the necessary lift to arrive at the final photo you see.  
The Very Best Balloon BlogLooking at the final photo and recounting all the details makes me tired all over again. To remember that we also created an enormous effect that morning before even tackling this evening effect is a testament to how prolific our crew was even though we were barely into our second year of running BalloonArt By Treb, Inc.  (each of our crew members could produce 1000 balloons per hour)
For those in the industry who have been around long enough and tell you that we started it all - this is one of the reasons why. These kind of days/events were common for us. Using thousands of balloons on a job was not the exception but rather the rule of the kind of work we did.
I post the photo again of all the equipment we used to complete our work to remind everyone that we sized all balloons by eye and ear as well as venturing down roads that had no maps let alone a compass to measure sanity. 
(realize too that I am not following the rules to challenge someone else each day but am hoping by posting these thoughts, it will challenge all to build big and use the power of balloons to create success in your business)

Day four of my challenge
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200th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution Opening Ceremony - Philadelphia, PA 1987
There are times when Classic Balloon Décor is used for just that - décor and then there are times when it is also great for effects and spectacles. This is a story highlighting the latter.
In 1987, BalloonArt By Treb was called on to develop ideas for the 200th Anniversary of the US Constitution in Philadelphia. It was decided to create a large American flag made out of balloons. We had done many American flags over the years, but because of the nature of this event, I wanted to make this one special. 
My idea was to completely cover the front of Independence Hall with an American flag and the shows one of the renderings we did to sell the idea. 

As if this were not challenging enough, the event producers wanted the flag to "appear" during the special song, "We The People", being performed by Andrea Mcardle for the finale.
The final plan was to build 40 columns of balloons - each 70 feet tall. The columns were to be "hidden" in the park area behind Independence Hall and then marched out and lined up as the song "We The People" was being performed. This gave us a 3 to 5 minute window to get all the columns in place and lined up before the song ended.
The concerns that the city had were if the balloons would damage Independence Hall in any way and what would happen if it were a windy day. I assured them the balloons would be safe and that the wind would not be a problem. (along with tying balloons fast - I was always good at selling)
Our balloon crew from CA consisted of 12 people and we enlisted the help of a local high school band to provide us with the necessary bodies (75) to transport the balloon columns.

The Very Best Balloon BlogThe day before the event, we brought the group down to Independence Hall  where we had one column built for demonstration purposes. The plan was explained to everyone and we let each team member work with the finished column to show them exactly what to do the next day. This went very well and the only thing that remained was to inflate 40 - seventy foot balloon columns and have a meeting with God to discuss the wind deal.

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We used 14" balloons done in clusters of five. The inflation went smoothly and we positioned the park benches to serve as anchors on each end of the 40 columns
The Very Best Balloon Blog

The Very Best Balloon Blog
Park benches serving as balloon arch anchors!

(Forgot to mention that there was also a 10,000 - 9" -balloon release included in the effect - partially shown here )
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The Very Best Balloon BlogAs the music for the finale started, two columns at a time were sent through the openings to the right of Independence Hall and marched into place behind the stage of dignitaries which included VP George Bush, Thurgood Marshall, Chief Justice Warren Burger and James Earl Jones to name a few. (this created a series of "issues" in talking with the Secret Service to allow so many of us in that close proximity to the VP of the U.S.)

The Very Best Balloon Blog

The Very Best Balloon Blog

The Very Best Balloon BlogThe important thing was to get all the columns out quickly and our system that was rehearsed the previous day went without a hitch. Once all the columns were in place, I immediately started the fine tuning process - starting at the left end of the flag and working my way to the right - having the crew people raise or lower their columns so that the flag would look as perfect as possible. 

Why the rush to get it perfect? Because at the end of the song "We The People", the band immediately went into "Stars and Stripes Forever" and the entire flag was to be released - column by column - into the sky during the final strain of that song. 

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"yes we did crazy things back then"
All in all, a pretty successful day. I arrived very weary to the Philadelphia train station the next day on my way to another event in New York. At the newsstand I noticed the front page of the USA Today newspaper: there was our flag. Over the years, the photo of this flag has been used extensively by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, appeared on the cover of college text books and even was granted a full page in Life magazine. 

It is a true testament to the power of balloons. For those of us lucky enough to be in this wonderful business and know what this takes to produce, I believe it represents the very freedom and determination that created the document for which it proudly honors.
Day five of my challenge
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The young Mr Heining
Disneyland's 30th anniversary balloon candle effect - Anaheim, CA 1985
Thought it would be good to finish this challenge by showing an event we did on the same streets that started me on my path to a career in balloons so many years ago - 1969.
During the 30th year celebration of the starting of Disneyland, we were fortunate to work on many wonderful events in and around the Park including a One Million balloon release and a publicity shot that was used extensively throughout that year.  
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The Very Best Balloon Blog
One Million Balloon Release by Treb Heining

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The Very Best Balloon Blog
The actual birthday of the Park - July 17th - was the date of what turned out to be one of best and most challenging effects we ever did and a testament to the quality and durability of Qualatex balloons.
(no commercial here but just had to mention this)
The idea was simple: create 30 birthday candles out of balloons - each measuring 75 feet long. Each "candle" would be lighted using C7 lights run along the interior of the column of balloons and would be supported by a 10 foot - helium filled - yellow vinyl inflatable.
Easy enough and hardly worth losing any sleep over. But the Entertainment Art director - Clare Graham - was always pushing the boundaries - and our capabilities - in the hopes of creating a better show for the Disneyland guests. Clare requested that all of the "candles" be rigged in the horizontal position over Main Street to form a canopy of balloons. When the actual 30th anniversary party started at midnight - during the playing of "When you wish upon a star" - each "candle" would be released - one at a time - to float to its vertical position.
Just to make matters a little more challenging - this whole effect had to be rigged during the day while the Park was open with guests passing along below. Oh - and the month of July in California is known to be on the hot side - easily 90 degrees +
We started by air inflating all the "candles" in a rehearsal hall that was located in the back off-stage area of the Park approximately one quarter mile from Main Street. This inflation took place on July 16th.
The following day - our crew arrived about 8AM and went over each candle - re-packing and replacing any balloons that had gone down. At the same time we had another branch of our crew starting to inflate the 30 - 10 foot vinyl inflatables. 
The Very Best Balloon BlogWe were very experienced at using this type of inflatable as we had used 50 of them previously during the closing ceremony of the Olympic games in Los Angeles as well as other balloon effects we had done. 

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But something was different about this batch of product we received. Seems that the pods that are attached to the sides of the inflatables were failing - a bad batch of glue - causing the pods to slowly peel and fall off one at a time. Left unchecked - each inflatable would simply fly away. We solved this problem by quickly purchasing some epoxy - two different forms of glue - that when mixed together, held the pods in place on the inflatables. (or so we hoped)
While the inflatable crew worked on their portion of the job, it became time to move the 30 balloon "candles" to the back of Main Street and start the installation of the balloon candle canopy. This was accomplished by having four crew members position themselves between two candles and then walk the candles along the back roads of Disneyland to the staging area behind Main Street. 
It was a very hot day and I must say that those of you who know me and my desire to always have perfection when it comes to balloons, this was a very difficult part of the day. I had to "let go" of some of that perfection in terms of the spiral pattern and balloon replacement as once the columns were rigged across Main Street, we had no way of touching them up. 
The system we established to get the columns over Main Street included one crew member on each side being on headset so that we could communicate with both sides of the street and then to our crew on each side. The columns were carefully pulled over Main Street much to the delight of the guests down below. 
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75' Balloon Candles 

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'Candles' being rigged

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The Very Best Balloon Blog

Once we had all 30 columns in place, we installed the 10 foot inflatables - 15 on each side of the street. (seems that our gluing system was holding)
Finally - it came time for Disneyland's 30th birthday party to start. We had 30 crew members - 15 on each side of Main Street - each holding one of the 10 foot inflatables. When the song - "When You Wish Upon a Star" - started, one column at a time - working towards the Castle - was released.
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Once all the "candles" were in the vertical position, the lights were turned on and the crowd down below went wild. 
For those of you who have seen the three photos from this event, (flat over Main Street - columns moving - final columns lighted), you now know the whole story. The glue we used did indeed hold and this effect stayed up throughout the entire next day for the birthday celebration.
You can imagine how tired our core BalloonArt By Treb crew was (we had scheduled staggered blocks of people to help move and trip the effect) but I know many of you out there also know the incredible feeling that comes from doing something that pushes your own boundaries to the max. 
I booked a room that night at the Disneyland Hotel that had a view towards Main Street. Around 1:30 AM, once all had been taken care of at the Park, I made it back to the room, went to the window and gazed at 30 lighted birthday candles towering majestically over Main Street and wept.
Thank you to Cam for issuing this challenge and thank you to all or taking the time to read, look and send such nice comments and thoughts.

I believe in the importance of dreaming
I believe in the benefits of working hard and discipline
I believe in the power of balloons

 Wow, what can I say, what a truly magical journey! A huge thank you to Treb Heining for sharing some incredible stories and photographs and to Cam Woody for selecting Treb to be one of her 5 day challengers!
'Treb Heining is the man responsible for invented the balloon garland and who first popularized professional balloon decor in the late 1970s. His vision launched a national phenomenon, and his basic design became the cornerstone of Classic Balloon Decor.' 

Happy Ballooning everyone, I hope that you have been inspired as much as I have!