Everyone has a talent. Some excel in scholarly pursuits, others in athleticism — and there’s no shortage of ways to be creatively talented. Connie Mason knows this to be true as she has discovered her creative talent to be in balloon art.

Balloons have always been a staple decor item at her Kankakee party and Halloween store, Mason’s Novelties, which she’s run for 21 years with her husband, Perry. Back when they first started their business, balloons were party decor on strings or sticks — a simple way to add fun and color to a party.

Now as parties of all types have become more extravagant, balloons have followed the trends and have become a focal point of decor.

“Things have certainly changed a lot since I first started,” said Mason, mentioning she noticed a shift in the balloon trend about eight years ago. “It definitely is like an art because now there are so many things that balloon media are part of.”

A few years back, Mason became a certified balloon artist through a program in Florida. She said that a lot of training is involved as well as a business aspect, including decorating and safety.

When discussing the art of balloon design, Mason explained, “balloons don’t cost a whole lot, but it’s the time and design of the artist — that knowledge of how to put it together and how to place it and make sure that there’s a stable element.”

There is a wall inside of Mason’s Novelties dedicated to a selection of balloons — from numbers to animals to characters to most everything in between. Mason noted that large number balloons have become increasingly popular, especially for birthdays.

Another popular facet of the balloon trend includes balloon walls and arches that provide photo backdrops for weddings and events. Due to the size of these structures, most of the work is done on site of the event.

“The trend just gets bigger and bigger,” said Mason. “There’s so many things you can do with balloons, it’s amazing.”

Mason continued to remain busy during the height of the pandemic, as there were many yard decor orders for people celebrating birthdays and graduations.

“They still wanted to celebrate, but didn’t want the crowds,” she explained.

At the end of the day, Mason still appreciates the simplicity of balloon twisting or balloon animals. When showing how to make a balloon dog, her hands moved with such ease that it was like second nature.

“That’s one of my favorites because when you have the kids come, they just appreciate you so much,” she said. “Just for a little balloon design, you can see them light up.”

Adopt-A-Grandparent

Part of Mason’s balloon skills go towards creating Balloon Buddies which are presented to seniors and veterans in assisted living facilities. The Adopt-A-Grandparent program was started back in January to allow relatives and the public to send Balloon Buddies to seniors who were isolated from visitors during the pandemic.

Mason said that they received close to 400 orders, and recipients really appreciated the gifts. Each order is custom designed in Mason’s shop and includes an uplifting note. The staff then distributes the gifts to residents.

For more information on Mason’s Novelties and Adopt-A-Grandparent, visit masons911balloons.com. Mason’s Novelties and Giftworks is located at 127 S. Schuyler Ave., Kankakee.

This article first appeared in Lifestyles of Kankakee.