A Balloon Entertainers’ Tip for Cutting off Multiple Balloon Lines that is Simple and Works

Line Closed

A lady with a small child looks at me and says, “It’s about time, we’ve been waiting for a half-hour for a balloon.”

I look at my watch and say, “That interesting, I started at 12:00 and it is now 12:15. What were you waiting for?”

“Well it feels like a half-hour,” she replies.

If you have ever twisted a balloon at a public event, you will observe that when people have to wait in line, they lose track of time. What are only minutes become hours to them, which makes it difficult when a balloon entertainer has to end their line.  People become irate and argumentative when informed that the line has closed.  It does not matter that I have been standing their twisting balloons for three hours straight, in 90-degree heat—they want a balloon.

Over the years, I have tried every trick in the book to end a balloon line. In fact, it is the most difficult challenge that a balloon entertainer can face.   I am constantly trying new and clever ways of ending a line without disappointing kids and adults, but the perfect solution still eludes me.   What works is to have a representative from the event stand at the back of the line and inform people that the line is closed.

?  In the balloon-twisting world, we know these people as the bad guys.  This individual takes the heat off the entertainer and keeps any controversy at the end of the line.  This allows the action at the front of the line to go uninterrupted.

Multiple balloon lines require you have multiple bad guys. However, event management only sends you one bad guy. Therefore, I developed this trick to help make ending multiple balloon lines simpler.  When I work with another entertainer there typically forms two lines.  I know how long it will take me to complete the line.  If time allows, I will continue twisting to the end of the event, but if there are more people than balloon entertainers, you need to cut off the line.  I position my bad guy to end the line 20-30 minutes earlier.  Therefore, if my ending time is 2:00, I shoot to have my line finished by 1:30.  Once finished, I instruct the bad guy to go to the other balloon guy’s line and close it.  Now, there is one long line.  I then proceed to count off the next 5-8 people in front of the big balloon line and ask them to come into my line.  This reduces the big line, gives the impression that the line is moving, keeps people in the same order, and provides me with a smaller group to handle.  Having only eight or fewer in line, I can quickly inform newcomers that the balloon line is closed.  At this point, the eight people standing there will support you fully when argumentative people approach. Once I finish the small line, I then take another 5-8 people and keep doing so until the big line is finished.

Do you have an idea for ending a line? Share your ideas or stories that have to occur while ending a line by leaving a comment.  Help educate others on a very typical problem.

17 thoughts on “A Balloon Entertainers’ Tip for Cutting off Multiple Balloon Lines that is Simple and Works”

  1. My wife and I work some events right beside each other. My wife does this with multi lines. At about 20 minutes to end, we merge the 2 lines into 1. She takes her stuff and goes to the end of the line — I stay and finish from the front. Anyone trying to get into the line after this is not allowed to do so. We zip through the line from both ends pretty quickly. At quitting time, everyone gets a sword — it is her philosophy that at least they get something this way. Since it is her company, I think this is brilliant.

  2. That is a Great idea for multiple lines. But I must tell you, I always seem to have one person who insists on having just one more balloon. Grandmas seem to be the worst! :o) Most events, I don’t have a helper. I try to time 30 minutes to the end as best as I can and take a round balloon on a stick that says “This is the Last Balloon.” I explain to the person to tell people behind them that they are the last one. If they do this and their child will get a special balloon. It works the best. But it is amazing that people will still argue.

  3. Ernie… For years I’ve done as you have, but one day I had a lady complain near the front of the line that they have been waiting the longest, and the people at the end just arrived and they are receiving a balloon animal immediately. That it wasn’t fair that they had to wait all that time. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, but since then I’ve given it some thought and she was right. The last person at the line should be the last to receive anything. I think by taking people from the front of the line to make a second line, is the best, fairest, and easiest solutions. That’s my logic nowadays. Thanks for the comment

  4. Bill “Mackee” I have to agree, grand parents can be the worst. I’ve found that when I have to do that “special balloon” for the last child it been the day that I have been twisting for 4 hours straight in 90 degree heat and by then– I just want to go home! So that last balloon, become the most tedious balloon animal I make that day.

  5. I simply give the last person a small note that says “sorry end of the line” This usually works for small events but for huge events, I have someone be the bad guy and control the line 30 minutes before my time is up. I make sure I finish up the line that no matter how long the line is which at some cases I always extend the time limit. It is true that its the adults who are worst and not just grandmas! I once had someone insist that I give them a balloon and allow them to line up… What irritated me was the Father said “he is a member of the media” and told this to the person controlling the lines. To this I answered to my assistant, if he really wants to get his kid a balloon because his kid is starting to have a tantrum then go BUY a balloon at the balloon stand which just 10meters away! He’s got a good paying job he could afford a 50cent balloon for pete’s sake! hehehee! (of course that was just between us only) Apparently this stubborn father wasn’t happy that i had cut the line and even went to the events manager and the products manager of the company we were promoting!!! Did I give in to this man? NO. I kept my stand and told the organizers that I have given more than what their company have required for me to do. My contract said ONE (1) Balloon Twister and I gave them two for the same price. (I already anticipated the huge crowd so i hired a balloon twister to help me out) So closing the line 30mins before closing time is just about good for me. Mind you the line was 20-30 people long when we closed the line and we were both twisting for 10 hours each!

  6. Jing…. I’ve heard of story of an entertainer who was fired because he held his ground based on principles. A guy, had a little to much to drink, insisted that his son get a sword, even though the line is closed. The entertainer held his ground and said, “Sorry, I’m done” and walk away. Now, right or wrong, the guy complained so much to management that they released the entertainer, which was a weekly gig. In hindsight, the entertainer probably wishes he made the sword, but he won the argument or did he?

  7. I agree about having a “bad guy” closing the line. I finally made a sign that I had the last person in line wear. When they got to the front, I made a special balloon. It worked for me. It said ” sorry, I’m the last person in line”. After working 5 hours in a building that had NO air conditioning and having just recovered for shoulder surgery, you can imagine how my arm and shoulder felt.

  8. I don’t do too many line gigs any more, but when I do, I require a volunteer from the company or the event staff to end my line. I give this person a bag with printed 11-inch balloons and chatzki (bookmarks, tattoos, etc.) to give out, or whatever I think of at the time. That way when they say I’m done, at least people have a consolation prize.

    I also tell the person what to say. “Annie has to leave soon to go to Johnny’s birthday party now, so she can’t stay, but she wanted you to have this as a promise to make you something next time, ok?” Most reasonable parents will understand that (1) I have made a promise to be at someone’s special day and (2) I’ve made the effort to have something small for their child even though I have to leave. They usually appreciate that. Kids understand “next time” and assume that they’ll see me again. For some reason, they usually think “next time” is tomorrow.

    For those parents who don’t understand after a couple of repeats of this line by the volunteer, I tell the volunteer to have the parents come and talk to me. I will then repeat the line, stressing little Johnnie’s special day so they understand I’m not being mean, I’m keeping a promise.

    Nothing works all the time but I find this keeps things positive most of the time.

  9. I made up several signs and put in plastic sheet protectors that read:

    Sorry to say balloon line is done.
    Hope to see you next time for fun!

    In addition to putting them on the ground all around the line area at appropriate time, I also have it on the back of a bright orange vest that either the last person in line wears or the representative from the event. I just keep twisting and smiling and reading the sign outloud when approached. For those that are pushy, I give them a happy face or heart they can blow up themselves which always satisfies the person.

  10. My wife picked up an idea from a face painting associate, Tickets!
    We each have 20 color printed, numbered, and laminated tickets. each one is approximately the size of a business card. When the time comes to start shutting down, I’ll pass out the tickets to those in line. Every couple minutes I’ll call out that we’re about done and only those with our special tickets will be getting balloons or face painting. It cut down on the line interlopers greatly, though some still try to insist, “I was in line!”

    I’ve found that volunteer “bad guys” can sometimes loose track, get side-stepped, or be bullied and then line doesn’t get any shorter no matter how many I’ve served. So to me, tickets helped me keep it professional and timely! I also use the little freebies for those last minute arrivals.

  11. We have something that works very well if the line is not too long. I have the end of the line loop back to me. I am the first and last person in line. Everyone can see me twist, and they form a wall so newcomers can’t get in line. The circle shrinks until I am done.

  12. Nice ideas. I used to draw caricatures at festivals, colleges & events where lines of people would stand & complain about everything – even before I cut off the line. The complainers would get angry, loud & abusive when I finished drawing at the end of the day, and at several public events in Chicago, I actually had security guards deal with people who got physical.

    I finally realised that complainers will always complain no matter what you do or say. I stopped drawing at events with lines, and now I just perform my show (45 minutes or less) and occasionally draw at private parties where people behave better.

    I don’t miss the lines. I don’t miss the complainers. And I really don’t miss having to get security guards to deal with people who think I owe them a drawing.

  13. I have found two techniques that can help alleviate the difficulty of line ending.

    In addition to using the line-ending vest shown above, I sometimes make up to 100 flying mice balloons. I bundle them together so that they look like a balloon bouquet and give them to the person wearing the line-ending vest. I show them how to pull on the balloon’s tail to make the mouse appear to jump and ask them to give one to anyone who wants to get in line and to demonstrate how to make it work. I usually up-sell this to my client for a small additional fee and find it helps set up a great conversation on the fact that line-ending needs to be enforced.

    I also sometimes grab my balloon scraps and give them out as tickets to people in line at the end of the day, with a friendly explanation that I will be collecting the balloon ticket when it’s their turn. No ticket, no turn. It’s funny to hear people tell newcomers, “No honey, you have to have a ticket to get a balloon…and they’re all gone!”

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