This Balloonist Won’t Blow It

Photo: Alan Schein/Corbis

It’s axiomatic that when a presidential candidate finishes his convention speech, the moment is capped with a shower of balloons and confetti. So when the DNC balloon drop didn’t go as planned, producer Don Mischer was caught live on CNN screaming, “Where the hell—there’s nothing falling! What the f— are you guys doing up there?” Jada Yuan spoke to RNC balloon man Treb Heining to see how he’ll avoid a similar mishap.

So what’s your title, balloon expert?
Balloon artist.

How do you become a balloon artist?
My first job was selling Mickey Mouse balloons at Disneyland. I learned how to tie balloons fast. After college, I started doing premieres, things at the Playboy Mansion. I kind of pioneered the industry. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. This is my fifth time doing the RNC.

So how fast can you tie the balloons?
At a blower or a helium tank, I can turn out 17 to 20 balloons a minute, 1,000 balloons an hour.

Are you the fastest on your crew?
I don’t think there’s anybody who can blow balloons faster than I can. Everybody has to be good at something.

What kind of balloons do you use for this kind of event?
Like anything, there’s a Rolls-Royce and a Volkswagen. This is definitely the Rolls-Royce of balloons. They have to last in the ceiling up there for more than a week.

How does this compare to other events you’ve done?
It’s not the largest. I’ve done Olympic ceremonies and Super Bowls, New Year’s in Times Square. But it’s probably the most stressful event. There’s just so much control you have over it.

Can a bad balloon drop influence the election?
I used to think so. But the best one we ever did was in ’92 for Bush’s father. So that blew my whole theory.

Do you worry about the balloons not falling?
We’ve never had nets that don’t open.

Could you teach me to tie a balloon fast?
That would be like asking Kristi Yamaguchi, “How do you ice skate?”

This Balloonist Won’t Blow It