Thursday, April 12, 2018

Would You Consider Entering A Competition At The World Balloon Convention — First Time Competitors Connie Iden-Monds and Samuel Stamp - Dod, CBA, Share Their Amazing Journeys

Being a first-timer at anything can be pretty exciting, challenging, and sometimes very daunting!
I thought that it would be really interesting to hear from several of our World Balloon Convention first-timers in their WBC roles! 

There are many different reasons why someone attends WBC, many as delegates, some as instructors and, of course, we have competitors. There are also the wonderful production team, the education staff, plus many other amazing people behind the scenes who make WBC the fabulous event that it is. In this first post, have focused on first-time WBC competitors, Connie Iden-Monds and Samuel Stamp-Dod.

Connie Iden-Monds, CBA, with her fabulous Team U.S.A.Design Leads: Connie Iden-Monds, Jack Mattson, Scott Nichols
Team: Chris Fuentes, Kelly Cheatle, Larry Moss, Elizabeth Nichols, Stacy Wheeler
Teri Stokes, Shonna Flanigan, Jenny Henry, Darren Saari, Anthony Lena, Randall Carter
and Barbara Carter.

First-Time WBC Competitors

I am really passionate about competitions and all the amazing balloon art that competitors create. As a former competitor myself, I appreciate all the many hours, days, weeks, and even months of work that can go into creating competition-standard designs. At WBC, we have a fabulous competition team coordinated by Dale Moore who ensures that the competitions run smoothly and that competitors are given the support that they require. Did you know that competitors have twenty-seven hours to build their large sculptures with their teams? It's not easy to work twenty-seven hours straight — I remember it well! 

Connie Iden-Monds

Although Connie Iden-Monds of Party Animals in Nashville, Tennesse, USA, has attended all the World Balloon Conventions to date,  this was the first time that she had competed. 

Connie told me that deciding to compete was pretty last minute. A friend had encouraged and cajoled her, stating that the U.S. needed representation. So from that point, it became all-hands-on-deck!
"There were key decisions made to bring specific talents to the team to make sure we could execute something that was presentable and respectable for this level of competition. There were so many times that I thought it would be easy to quit. I don't think that the sculpture would have happened if it weren’t for each member of the team bringing their magic to the sculpture,
"  Connie said.

Anthony Lena

I asked Connie how she found the experience.
"Honestly, it was exhilarating and grueling at the same time. There was such magic and chemistry with this team that it really pushed me to stay up the 21 hours that it took to complete it. We planned so well that we were done 6 hours prior to end time."

Would you compete again? "Perhaps. If I could do it with this same team with a subject that I was as passionate about (as I am a Disney fanatic), I would certainly do this again."

What would you do differently in terms of preparation? "I would identify the team a bit sooner. We had lots of talent that joined late in the process. I can only imagine how much more incredible it would have been to have their inputs sooner. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to get a strong US team together to practice for things like this and it’s an important part of the planning, so we’d have to budget for thing like that."

How will you use this experience in your business? "I already apply some of the technology that we used in the piece in my work today. The real beauty of this competition was the strong bond of friendship we have from the experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of them in for a big job. In fact, I’m already looking at opportunities for that! "

Have you used your experience to promote your business?
 "Indeed I have. I also made a template for the team to use for their local press. I am most excited though that CBS Sunday Morning was following us throughout the process and looking forward to their viewpoint of our craft, industry, and competition win."

 " Poor Unfortunate Souls"
3rd place winner: Connie Iden-Monds
Design Leads: Connie Iden-Monds, Jack Mattson, and Scott Nichols
Team: Chris Fuentes, Kelly Cheatle, Larry Moss, Elizabeth Nichols, Stacy Wheeler,
Teri Stokes, Shonna Flanigan, Jenny Henry, Darren Saari, Anthony Lena, Randall Carter
and Barbara Carter

Here are the first and second place winners in the large sculpture category.

1st place winner: Kun Lung Ho from Taiwan. 

2nd place, Vadim Shushkanov, CBA, from the Russian Federation. 

For Samuel Stamp- Dod, CBA, of VIP Balloons in Ipswich, U.K., this was his first WBC.

Samuel Stamp-Dod

"Although I started working in the balloon world in the late 1990s, I didn’t go full time until four years ago. This is when I first became aware of the convention. In 2016 I watched my friends and colleagues post their pictures and stories of the event and decided there and then that I was going to attend WBC 2018."

Mike Hurst, CBA.

Why did you decide to compete this time?
"I spoke with Mike Hurst of Reds, in Brackley, about his time at WBC 2016 and he had two regrets: firstly, he didn’t see enough of the city and secondly, he wished he had entered the competitions. Learning from this I decided that I would enter as many competitions as I could, and secondly, add a few extra days on my trip to see the sights.
In the past, I have competed in balloon competitions and have always learned from others competing as well as stretching myself.  For me, the biggest reason for entering competitions is the publicity that I can get after the event.  Local papers and radio stations are always looking out for good news stories and winning any award is great for them – and in turn, great for me and my business."

Lucy Henessey, CBA.
 How much time did you spend preparing for your competitions prior to arriving in San Diego?
"I was a Boy Scout and was taught to ‘be prepared.'  I booked my space at WBC and entered the competitions on first day available, having looked through all the options available to me.
I then proceeded to work out where my areas of strengths were and come up with some designs.
I entered the maximum of four competitions: two with Mike (Picture Frame and Column), one on my own (Table Centrepiece), and one as a team (Medium Sculpture).  Mike and I met to discuss our two entries, each taking the lead for one of them.  We then looked to form a team with three others for the Medium Sculpture.  We joined with Debbie O'Neil from Wow Balloons in Benfleet, Lucy Hennessey from Balloon Power in Leigh-on-Sea, and Alison Galley from Celebration Balloons of Rothwell.  We spoke online several times before having just one meeting face to face.  In retrospect, I think we should have started much earlier on with this design, but we live and learn!"

Debbie O'Neil, CBA.

How was your experience competing?
"I loved it!  It was very hard work, but so worth it.  We started the Medium Sculpture after taking an eleven-hour flight, changing time zones, and getting barely any sleep, which certainly added to the difficulty.  Despite the lack of time together before we arrived in San Diego, the team worked really well together, each taking sections of the design to build.  We got about six hours into the twelve-hour build and tiredness started to set in, tempers shortened, and fortunately for us, Mike Harris of For Every Occasion in Rhyl (a former competition winner at WBC) came and advised us all to take a break away from the competition room, which we did.
A few hours later the design was completed within time, and despite being completely shattered, we were all very proud of what we had created.  Later in the week, we were rewarded with a Bronze award for the design – very happy!
The following day saw my second competition, the Picture Frame.  Mike and I had worked on creating something similar in the summer of 2017, so we knew the design well and worked together as a well-oiled team.  We were very proud of what we created, but disappointed that the entry wasn’t given an award.
The next day saw the entry for the Column.  This was a design that Mike had come up with based on the Russia World Cup logo.  The design had classic Column elements within the design, which we knew to get the points needed to be spot on.  Sizing was critical to the design, and so this is what we focused on.  This obviously paid off as we picked up our second bronze award of the week.
The same day that we had the Column to build I also had my centrepiece to submit.  By this time my fingers were sore, I was tired, and my spirits were falling.  The entry that I felt would have been the easiest, turned out to be the most difficult.  My foil balloon burst and after inflating my only spare, this leaked.  The design had failed on me, and I had no time to make repairs.  I felt disappointed in myself and, quite rightly, the design wasn’t awarded anything."

Would you compete again at future events?
"Yes!!  I have learned from my experience that competing has its ups and downs, but overall, I loved it."

What would you do differently in terms of preparation?
"If I was to work with a team again, I would call for a face to face meeting much sooner than we did.  I would urge one person to take the lead with the design so decisions could be made easier and I wouldn’t enter four!"

"Finding Dory" Medium Balloon Sculpture
Samuel Stamp-Dod
Mike Hurst, Lucy Hennessey, Debbie O'Neil and Allison Galley.
How will you use this experience in your business?
"Since shouting about WBC 2018 in the press and online, I gained about one hundred more followers on my social media pages in just a week, more visits to my website, and more enquiries for work. The photos of both my work, the showcase designs, other competition pieces, and work from classes have all been used to show potential customers what can be created with balloons.  I have already made use of several of the designs within the huge handbook, which each delegate gets as part of their goody bag, and plan to use many more of theses designs with clients later on this year."

Have you used your experience to promote your business?
"Yes. I had already been on the local radio a couple of times before leaving the U.K. sharing my story with them and as soon as I got back, I was invited back to tell them more.
I sent out a press release a week after returning and within a day I had already had front page exposure in my local paper, further reports within the papers, local magazines, websites, and in the trade press."


I love both of these stories. Entering competitions can become a life-changing experience, and building relationships with fellow balloon artists can last long after the convention ends. To enter a competition takes a great deal of work and effort, and in some cases many, months of preparation and a lot of "blood, sweat and tears" at the event, but they are definitely worth it! I urge anyone attending a convention such as the World Balloon Convention to enter a competition or help someone with theirs. You will certainly add a whole new dimension to your convention experience — and maybe win an award, too! 

I have more fabulous WBC first-time stories to share with you. I will be posting these very soon!

A huge thank you to both Connie and Samuel for sharing their amazing journeys!

Happy Ballooning!


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