It’s all About Line Twisting

During my thirty-plus years of balloon twisting, I have learned some valuable information regarding line twisting. Line twisting is when a balloon entertainer faces the challenge of making as many balloons as possible in a given period while kids stand in line waiting for a balloon.

Every balloon entertainer will be placed in this situation, and working efficiently is key to being a successful line twister. I try to avoid jobs that require line twisting, but many large church picnics, festivals and fairs, schools, kids’ exhibits, and park districts have hired me to be a repetitive balloon-producing machine.

Balloon Line Twisting

There are several critical elements to being successful line twisters. I first learned that I was hired as a balloon-twisting dispensing machine. Not for my comedic entertainment abilities, but the ability to get “every child” a balloon figure. That’s what the client wants. It does not matter if I can make funny pun after pun; it’s all about keeping the line moving and producing many balloons very quickly.

For me, it is hard to remove the entertainment value from working with a balloon, but I have learned that it needs to be reduced dramatically. Being a balloon-producing factory is draining me, both physically and mentally. The energy used to make people laugh is now being focused on keeping my wits about me while people glare, comment, show me attitude, and misbehave. As I stand in front of them, seeing and hearing them, they gripe about being in a line that wraps around the room in an endless spiral.

Secondly, I must shift my thinking regarding balloon entertaining and how I charge the client. Part of my charge is based on me inflating the balloon onsite. That time and energy are built into the performance rate. However, when line twisting, I have learned that to be successful, you need to bring pre-inflated balloons. That time and energy are in addition to the time and energy I will exert during the actual balloon-twisting dispensing machine process. The extra seconds add up, and the energy not used in inflating does help because line twisting is a marathon, not a sprint.

The third thing I think about is the designs I will make. What is quick, efficient, and creates a wow factor? Efficiency is the key. The experience I gained while working at Harris Casino as a balloon entertainer was that a primary teddy bear that I make involves twisting ten bubbles. In contrast, a penguin has the same amount of bubbles and three balloon colors, only takes seconds longer to produce, reduces stress on the hands and fingers, and increases the wow factor by 100%, so it was the more efficient balloon design to use in large crowds. The efficiency with a wow factor, I have learned, generates repeat business.


Color and selection are tossed out the window regarding line twisting. I like to use a base color; these are the pre-inflated balloons. This way, everyone in the school, church, and exhibit has the same primary body color; the details may be customized if the person receiving the balloon is a boy or girl.

I learned that using a base color makes it easy to use on my balloon inventory. I’m doing a school; I need 3-4 bags of white balloons and three bags of mixed colors. Recently, I chose random color balloons for wristbands that I twisted for a school, and the only option for the children was an alien head or smiley face. Sorry, kids, no color choices; what type of head do you want?

School Kids

Lastly, I look at the audience’s age. School events ensure that all kids are the same age, so one or two designs are needed. The other day, I made all the Kindergarteners, 14 classes, wristbands with heads, while 1-5 graders received twisted hats. Both groups were over two days, during which I dispensed over 1,100 balloons.

Advanced planning makes the line-twisting process easier for both the client and me. Once I have a plan on what I’m going to make at the venue, little things like line control, where equipment and supplies are placed for efficiency, padding to stand on to reduce leg and back stress, water to keep hydrated, and all those other tips and tricks I do to be successful, all come into play just like all my other venues. The significant difference is that the balloon selection is limited, comedic energy is lowered, and balloons are distributed like a machine. If I keep the machine from breaking down, the client is happy, and the results are repeat work and money in my pocket.

19 thoughts on “It’s all About Line Twisting”

  1. Thanks for the great info. I have never brought pre-inflated balloons (it is an interesting idea), but I often bring an assistant who does the inflating and knot tying while I twist. I also like your idea of a limited color palette.

  2. Alisa, one event I would have four people inflate and bring 1,500 one-balloon figures to an event where two entertainer would pass out balloon in Santa’s line. The biggest problem was bring them to the event. The inflated balloons would fill up two cars.

  3. Dale,
    Thanks for the great information. I find that at large events it is often difficult to avoid working as “a balloon machine.” Limiting the choices goes a long way in keeping things moving. If child asks for something elaborate, I give them a business card and say “I’m going to come make that for you on your birthday!” I also use stock lines like “You can have any color I choose.” I was an indulgent father when my kids were small, but I am amazed that parents will wait an hour or longer to get their child a balloon.

  4. Dale, thank you for your thoughts. Although I respectively disagree with many of your points. You and I are polar opposites when approaching “line work”. That doesn’t mean either of us is right or wrong. Just different. (But I now have a topic for my next blog post!) 🙂

    Thanks for the great articles. Keep ’em coming!

  5. I did an event once where after my magic show the parents left the kids to run and play outside while I tried to balloon twist for over 200 kids.

    They quickly became too much to control. I literately had to hold my balloon apron above my head out of reach and walk to the event organizer. With swarms of kids around me grabbing for balloons, I asked for two tables and two volunteers to play security guard.

    One volunteer kept the kids in line and the other in the middle of the two tables allowed one child through at a time. It worked great from then on. I see it was my fault for not informing the event organizer how kids react to balloons.

    I think during the crazy times if you keep a smile on and joke with the kids they see you relaxed and they relate that you have a hard job but enjoy doing it for them.

    If you look grumpy they see a grumpy adult that doesn’t like what he’s doing and they get a worse attitude. Sometimes I say to them, Can you believe how fast I am working?? Then they start talking about how fast I am and that helps me while I try to show off. It’s a real moral booster when you need it most.

    Alex Jay Hamm

  6. I have brought pre-inflated balloons to events before. The problem is that you are not getting paid for your time to do that unless you add that time into your price and most people don’t want or can’t pay that. When I do bring pre-inflated balloons it’s usually for the purpose of handing to people that are still in line at the end of the booking. That’s a good way to satisfy people and close your booth quickly.

  7. Lisa, I thought the same way, but now I’m looking at it differently. It took me 15-minutes to inflate 200 balloons. That means I will make another 100 costumers happy, passed out another 100 business cards, and my client at the end of the day is extremely happy. With that said, for me, that’s 15-minutes investment will pay off big in the long run. Unlike that 15-minutes I spend trying to shut down and leave a long balloon line. I only would do this if line twisting for a large group like a school field days. ;o)

  8. from your last comment it sounds like you literally place a card in each balloon attendees hand. maybe i got to try that. i usually mention a number of times that the cards are on the table but only a few will take one most just want a free balloon.

  9. If you do as i said above do you find your cards laying on the ground cuz many folks throw away cards that they didnt have a choice in getting. I know they will throw a paper on the ground that was placed on their windshield . Ive seen it done many times.

  10. imagine having the luxury of having an assistant to blow up balloons and tie them………..lalalalalala……… in a dream
    where do you get paid enuff to be able to hire someone to blow and tie??

  11. Sometimes I find card on the ground, pick them up and through them away. All I need is 1 party to by another 5,000 cards. Have you ever noticed popped balloon figures just lying on the ground and discard… same thing isn’t it. ;0)

  12. Jim, if a high school kids gets paid $8 dollars an hour, you can double the their pay = $16. IF need charge the client an additional $20 bucks an hour. Problem solved. Talk to balloon decorators, they hire people to inflate balloon for less then double digits an hour.

  13. Dale, could you please show or tell what the wrist part of the alien or smiley face consists of? I can’t tell from the picture. Also, is it a 260?

  14. Really good article Dale, if I’ve learned one thing is that we’re all so different & there are different methods for each of us so there is no real right or wrong but what works for you. Just like the many ways to make a feline, depending on where I’m at which I will do. Often there are more than one kiddo at a table so I start with the one who knows what he/she wants & I prompt the others with parents help to choose what they want, although that’s dangerous too right? Anyway, all helpful instruction & hints from you & the comments. Steve

  15. Really good article Dale, if I’ve learned one thing is that we’re all so different & there are different methods for each of us so there is no real right or wrong but what works for you. Just like the many ways to make a feline, depending on where I’m at which I will do. Often there are more than one kiddo at a table so I start with the one who knows what he/she wants & I prompt the others with parents help to choose what they want, although that’s dangerous too right? Anyway, all helpful instruction & hints from you & the comments. Steve

  16. Steve, there is a confront zone that most entertainers like to work in and we gravitate to these things that show our skill off in the best light. Yes, I like a challenge, but I must know when to check our egos and forgo the challenge and do what’s best for the event. Taking 15-minutes to create a design doesn’t help the other 50 kids in line or the parents waiting. My advice is find a style that works for you. Examine what worked and what didn’t. What didn’t…change it. What did, improve upon it. That’s how I grown in this industry.

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