“Everyone has that one friend, doing something weird, right? Yeah. I’m that guy,” says Brad Wood, as he twists a pink balloon into what appears to be a poodle.
After watching an episode of the TV show Blind Date 12 years ago, where a character made things out of balloons, Wood was inspired to try his hand at it. The very next day after seeing the show, he walked past a magic shop and decided to stop in to see if they had what he was looking for. There was one bag of balloons, one balloon pump, and one book on what to do with them to start creating his craft. It was meant to be.
Wood, also known as Brad the Balloon Guy and B-Radical Balloons, showed off his craft and charm to a steady crowd of students in the courtyard at the college from noon until 2 p.m. during AC Day 1.
From Sonic the Hedgehog headdresses to Curious George swinging from a palm tree — little balloon coconut included — Wood delighted the students and instructors who flocked around him under his tent.
Although he has been twisting latex into colourful creatures professionally for nine years, Wood wasn’t always The Balloon Man. He actually studied engineering actually.
“I didn’t do so great at it,” said Wood, laughing.
He builds mostly cartoon characters, the things that he grew up with like characters from The Simpsons and the Muppets.
Now he makes his living designing not only balloon creatures, but also the kind of joy in others that he believes is unique to his medium.
“I just love making people happy,” said Wood. “Making people smile and laugh. Making someone’s bad day better.”
Wood says his most difficult balloon feat was the request he received from a 12-year-old girl he saw sitting alone at an event for a tech company he used to work at. She had been brought along by her parents but was the only child there so she seemed out-of-place and bored.
When he offered to make her anything out of balloons she accepted the challenge, sarcastically.
“Make a snake eating Santa Claus,” she told Wood.
He surprised himself when he completed the challenge, and — perhaps more importantly — he helped the girl smile.
On campus in the courtyard, under his tent, he worked the same magic.
Daniel Sterling, 18, a first-year video game development student, got a complex-looking black and grey balloon robotic arm which he wore.
His friend Damian Beltran, 18, a first-year pre-animation and illustration student, got the enormous Sonic headdress.
“I AM Sonic!” said Beltran, with laughter. And his group of several friends did the same.
A female student asks if The Balloon Guy could make a lion and he says of course. Another student asks for a monkey.
He wears a gigantic fanny pack with literally hundreds of limp, different-coloured balloons, and has permanent markers dangling from his belt as well.
“When there are balloons, the people in line are all six years old again,” said Wood.