Meet the man behind those massive holiday parade balloons

Tuesday, December 7th 2004, 10:25 am
By: News On 6

His business is always expanding and yet he's the only employee. What's the answer to this riddle? It's the giant balloon character business. And one of the best-such balloon makers lives here right in Tulsa’s backyard.

Ken Moody moved to Skiatook from California about three years ago. News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg went there to find out what's "up".

Like a lot of kids, Ken Moody marveled at the giant balloons in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. "I'd watch Macy's and think, wow, who does that, y’know is it a big gigantic corporation?" As it turns out, there are just a few, maybe as few as a dozen people in the whole country like Ken who put together these amazing creations. "The client asks for a balloon and in this case it was Betty Boop."

He grew up in Washington State and studied sculpting, which as it turns out is the art skill that translates best to balloon making. "Sculpting and math, oddly enough." The model is numbered by Ken and cut them out by hand.

As you can imagine, it's a meticulous process. From those he makes a transparency and enlarges them on a projector to cut the full-size pieces. For a Betty Boop balloon, 170 in all. Then it's on to the rotary thermal hot-air welder. "As you can see, I just did two feet in what, about 15 seconds."

In the old days of rubber and glue, it took four people, 6 months to piece together a balloon, now. "I did Betty Boop in 20 days, just myself."

Ken's portfolio includes Yogi Bear, Mr. Potato head, George Jetson and on and on. A Beetle Bailey balloon he made when he was in California will be in Tulsa's Parade this weekend. Ken moved here because his father was born near Bartlesville.

And he's floated the idea to the city of creating a balloon-parade that could be a signature event for Tulsa. Right now, San Diego's is the biggest with 31 balloons. "A lot of those balloons that are in that parade, I built. We could turn Tulsa into the largest balloon parade in the nation."

And that's not just hot air.

Ken says the trickiest part of balloon-making is taking a two dimensional character and making it three-dimensional. He says if the proportions aren't right, people spot it right off.