With This Man's Help, We Celebrate People by Dropping Balloons on Them

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"I don't think there's anything as spectacular as a well-executed balloon drop."

When Treb Heining was 15, he got a job at Disneyland -- a job selling balloons. Over the years, through college and beyond, that early job led to a unique skill: He became especially adept at tying balloons. Which led to a unique business: In 1979, Heining started a company that specialized in creating balloon decorations. "Nobody was doing anything like that," he tells Buzzfeed in the video above, "and from 1979 to 1984, we were grossing over $1 million in sales. And, as they say, the rest is history." 

Heining grew his successful business into a familiar tradition, orchestrating massive balloon drops at such massive events as Super Bowls (he's done 18 of them), Oscars ceremonies (he's done 5 of those), and Republican National Conventions (tonight's will be his seventh). His company started the "confetti effect" at Times Square's New Year's Eve parties in 1991, which has been a tradition ever since. 

For tonight's festivities, Heining and his crew have suspended over 100,000 balloons in the rafters of the Tampa Convention Center, some of them as large as 3 feet in diameter. A team of 16 to 20 people will help orchestrate those balloons as they're dropped -- if all goes well -- onto a cheering crowd. Heining himself will be in a control booth, coordinating among his crew, directing proceedings almost as if he were the conductor of a balloon-based orchestra. 

There's an art to his work, he suggests, and maybe just a bit of magic. "When people see a lot of balloons -- they walk into a party, or they walk into an event like this," Heining says, "and they see hundreds of thousands of balloons coming down, or arranged perfectly -- they go, 'Wow, someone went to a lot of trouble.' And I think it goes to that part of your soul where you go, you know, 'This is a special event.' I don't think there's anything as spectacular as a well-executed balloon drop."

Via @pbump

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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