For decades, the talk among balloon entertainers has always been about how to twist a balloon in extreme heat. Yet few conversations talk about twisting balloons in extreme cold. This past weekend I had the opportunity to twist balloons in 36-degree temperatures, with winds between 10-20, with the occasional gusts to 30, miles per hour.
The key to any outside event is dressing for the weather. It is not a fashion show. It is about keeping warm. Double the shirts and socks, and long underwear are mandatory clothing. Thinsulate boots, down jacket, and a wool sweater are some of my favorite clothing to survive working in the cold.
Being raised in Chicagoland, the weather fluctuates with the wind. Just give the weather some time and it will change, so outside events are always, always unpredictable. Days prior to this event, subzero temperatures plunged into the negative double digits, and as the event neared the temperature climbed.
I found my equipment, a Peewee Pump, works without problems in the cold. Any metal items, scissors, paint markers, and the pump nozzle are cold to the touch. At one point, I thought I would take off my fingerless gloves and brave the cold. I quickly realized my pump nozzle was extremely cold and keeping the gloves on was a wiser option.
I made sure that I avoided the wind tunnel areas, and positioned myself with my back to the wind. Since I was required to be outside, I figured I needed some protection from the wind.
The crowds were steady and happy. Interestingly the audience was mostly small kids with parents. The teenagers must have opted to stay home and play video games instead of heading out in the cold winter air.
Things I would Do Differently in the Cold
- I would request a wind barrier. A tent with a backdrop, just to break the wind, reduces outside temperatures dramatically.
- A corrugated box to stand on is an old sports stadium trick to keep feet warm. Put a broken box under your feet to create a barrier between the cold, damp ground and your feet. It really works.
- Request a corrugated box “carpet runner” to be at least 15 feet long allowing the people in line an insulation barrier from the frozen ground.
Things to Avoid While Twisting Balloons in the Cold
- I learned from the Canadian-produced television program Survivorman that filling your bladder with liquid only makes you colder in the end. So avoid drinking that free hot chocolate until the very end of the gig. Nothing is worse than having to go to the bathroom while standing in the freezing cold.
- Assuming the weather is warmer than it actually is and not dressing properly. Days earlier I had my down-filled snow pants on, but since the temperature was no longer subzero, I chose not to wear them. Mistake. Put them on. It is much easier to take a layer of clothing off then it is to find a layer of clothing to put on.
- Windy areas. The wind can quickly lower body temperature, so make sure the area you are working in is protected and is not the wind corridor.
Things That Keep You Warm
- Down Jacket
- Long Underwear
- Thermal socks
- Thinsulate Boots
- Gold Gym fingerless workout gloves – just make sure you cut off any extra strings around the fingers. This will prevent you from twisting your gloves into the design.
- Hood on Jacket – Hats are nice, but you need a good wind blocker and a down-filled jacket hood works wonders.
- Ear muffs – Keeps your ears warm. If you need to pull off the jacket hood, your ears will stay warm.
- Good Sunglasses – Keeps your face warm and reduces eye strain caused by glare from the snow.