ANN ARBOR – If you’ve been following our reporting in Ann Arbor throughout the years, it’s likely you’ve seen a story or two about Carolynn Hayman.
She’s the creator of the viral Conrad the Unicorn balloon costume and is often seen strutting at local events like FestiFools in her eye-catching and playful creations.
She’s also been known to participate in balloon competitions and builds, which brings us to today’s story.
Hayman recently took part in the country’s first-ever “Big Balloon Build” in Vincennes, Indiana. The event was brought stateside by her friend and party shop manager Liz Romani. Romani convinced UK-based balloon artist Stuart Davies to bring his famous “Big Balloon Build” event to her city after he held several successful builds that helped raise money for charities.
The week-long project saw 65 balloon artists from around the country join forces for a week for a Candy Land-themed build.
“It was one of the coolest things I was ever involved with,” said Hayman. “The level of ballooning was out of this world.”
The artists were split into groups and were tasked with bringing the board game to life at a 12,000-square-foot community center. From characters to a giant ice cream castle, lollipop woods to a 70-foot long rainbow, the artists created larger-than-life displays using 125,000 balloons.
Once complete, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a gala featuring a balloon dress fashion show and a day of viewing by the general public followed. The “cost” to enter the event was a bag of canned goods. More than 14,000 pounds of food were collected and the event raised more than $130,000 for the local United Way.
“We had a great team of people who had lots of ideas and tried new things,” said Hayman. “It was so collaborative and we had so much fun. The fact that all these people left our own businesses for the week -- it was very heartwarming.”
After all was said and done, a group of volunteers came to pop everything they had created. But Hayman said she loves the fact that her artwork isn’t permanent.
“The fact that it’s not hanging around forever -- you have to appreciate it in the moment -- is just so appealing,” she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, her business, Pop! Designs & Creations, has shifted largely to balloon displays for local events.