For many of us, the idea of “balloon art” conjures up images of three-strand balloon animals or balloons wrapped around a column or in an arch.
But if you’re heading to this year’s State Fair, prepare to have your mind expanded, much like a balloon.
Balloonopolis, a Columbia-based company, is building a replica of a farm with more than 10,000 balloons, housed in the Ellison building.
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“We’ve got pine trees, a tractor ... we’ll have a scarecrow, a cow, a barn and a silo. And all kinds of cool vegetables. When its all done, we’re going to have a pig, corn, collards, watermelon, an apple tree and a peach tree,” said Shawn Mewborn of Balloonopolis, who along with his wife, Janice, daughter, and another balloon artist are constructing the display.
Last year, Balloonopolis built a carousel to scale made entirely of balloons.
Assistant fair manager Nancy Smith liked that carousel so much she asked this year for the farm.
The farm measures 30 feet across by 15 feet high, which is more than enough space for a pretty large farm. So large, in fact, the complete display will use at least 10,000 balloons of different shapes, sizes and colors.
The barn was the first thing they built on site. That took 20 hours.
Next was the silo. That took 4 hours.
“After doing the barn all day long, that was a breeze,” Janice Mewborn joked.
There will be fields for harvesting, too.
“We’re going to build rows of corn and take the corn off (the stalk) and put them in little baskets and put them around,” Janice Mewborn said.
“I told this little kid earlier, who was like, ‘But can you make ...’ ... and I said, let me just go ahead and tell you this: I can make anything,” said Tina Fagin, who has been a balloon artist for 17 years and works with the Mewborns.
“The three of us work really well together,” she said. “Janice is the creative. She’s the big-picture person. Shawn is the engineer, figuring out how to make everything stand up. And then it shifts to me, doing details. I do the eyelashes and the manes and the saddle blankets and all that kind of fun stuff. So the three of us make a good creative team.”
And they do all of it with just an air-pump, balloons and scissors.
“Ten years ago, you would have never seen anything like this,” Fagin said. “It took new creative minds coming in ... and it’s mind-blowing. There’s nothing you cannot do with balloons.”
We get a lot of ‘wows’ or ‘this is amazing.’
Janice Mewborn of Balloonopolis
But you’d better catch this piece of art while it’s at the fair.
Because come Monday, with the fair closing up, they will take box-cutters to it.
“It’s the fastest way,” Janice Mewborn said. “It’ll take us 350 hours to put up and two hours to take down.”
The jokers aren’t clowning around.