As COVID-19 restrictions fluctuate, Brad the Balloon Guy is watching his popularity soar.
For nearly 15 years, Brad Wood has been entertaining the masses through balloon art and performances at birthday parties, corporate events, malls, daycares and summer camps. But with the emergence of a deadly pandemic, and the provincially-mandated cancellation of events, his livelihood has been threatened.
“It took a few weeks to figure out what the heck was going on,” Wood explains. “And since I follow science... I could sense this was going to be a bit of a long haul.”
The self professed “pop culture and 80s cartoon guy” admits that a job surrounded by balloons is simply another way to recreate the nostalgia of his childhood. Helium filled renditions of He-Man Masters of the Universe characters drew some devoted online fanfare, which only spawned Brad’s resolve to attempt “bigger and crazier stuff.”
He explains, “You don't expect to get more popular during a pandemic, but I guess people are looking for alternatives [since] you can’t do parties and you can’t have events.”
That’s okay though, says Wood, because you can have life-size, helium-filled Star Wars characters.
“People are looking for fun. These are weird times and people are dealing with it the best they can.”
Previously employed by Nortel, Wood says that the cubicle life was never a long term interest for him, especially given his creative interests. After lucking out on discovering the very last balloon making supply kit at a magic store, he spent the next couple of months making “the worst balloons you could ever imagine.” But, he persisted, driving his roommates insane in the interim, and after the Nortel bubble burst, he officially made this his newfound hustle.
Currently a member of Orbital Talent, the 47-year-old merges his passions, performing comedy shows that incorporate balloon artistry.
In years past, Wood’s love for horror movies has inspired a consistent conception of Halloween themed creations come October, but with plenty of extra time and energy, he thought why not make this into a regular affair.
Kicking off in October, Wood posted a photo of the Invisible Man -- which turned out to be just his couch -- but all jokes aside, he’s regularly been highlighting a candid creation since, including Freddy Kruger featured in Nightmare on Elm Street, a Christmas Pikachu, and most recently, Predator Unmasked.
Some of these intricate displays are very time-consuming, taking up to five hours to pull together. “I’m not your typical balloon guy,” explains Wood. “Anyone can make a dog or a butterfly or whatever. But I’m the guy who makes Ash [from Evil Dead 2] coming out of a cabin with a chainsaw and a shotgun. And it’s a lot of fun for me.”
The community seems to have found just as much joy in this unique form of entertainment, and Wood has watched his social media following jump to nearly 6,500 followers since the onset of the pandemic.
Crediting COVID-19 as the driving force behind this artistic evolution, he says, “I want to push the envelope on my creativity. People can’t have parties or events but they still can do something fun. If I can see a picture I can probably figure it out. My favourite thing is making people smile and making people laugh. That keeps the spark going for me.”
Check out Brad the Balloon Guy’s creations on Facebook.