Balloon artist Lafayette rises to the top | Campus

There is a volcano 15 feet high and 20 feet wide, a cloud of smoke billowing. Several types of dinosaurs stare at the earth, hungry for a meal. Baby dinosaurs emerge from their cracked eggs.

Imagine this scene, but made entirely out of balloons.

Angie Arrigo, Lafayette balloon artist and Purdue project assistant, leaves Saturday for Orlando, Florida, to participate in Balloon Wonderland, where she will help build this scene.

Balloon Wonderland is an event that raises funds for the charity Give Kids the World sponsored by Qualitex, a balloon company, which will donate 500,000 biodegradable balloons.

She worked on a 70-foot-long rainbow for a Candyland fundraiser endorsed by Vincennes, Indiana, Hasbro – a recreation of the board game made of balloons and the first major balloon event in the United States – and a 20-foot-tall balloon tree for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium at the Purdue Memorial Union. The trees alone used 11,000 balloons.

“I like to see other people happy,” she said. “When I do a balloon bouquet delivery or a big event that’s for one person and I get feedback from those people, it means the world to me, it feeds my soul, it makes me happy.”

Although she usually does displays for business conferences and Purdue, her real passion is for small projects.

“I know that in a lot of marketing courses I’ve taken, they say don’t take small jobs because they’re not worth it. But it’s not always about the money you bring in. It’s also about what makes you happy to be able to give back,” she said.

Arrigo stays true to his word, donating balloons for the Breast Cancer Foundation, Buddy Walk and United Way.

Her journey with balloon art began when she had to help out in her parents’ flower shop.

“I always liked art in school, but I didn’t know I had abilities,” she said. “I started playing with flowers, and it didn’t take long for my stuff to look better than his. I had a knack for it.”

Arrigo said the flower shop had balloons and received a balloon book.

“He’s talking about tying two balloons together and then twisting them into four to make an arch, and I was like, what? That sounds so cool.

She started playing with balloons in 1994 and launched her company, High Expectation Balloons, in 1996. She won second place in a national centerpiece competition in 2015.

Arrigo uses CPVC, PVC, and aluminum tubing that it purchases from Home Depot. Originally, these tubes were intended for electrical or plumbing purposes, but she reuses them for her art.

She used an axle grinder to shape the metal rods, but for the arches she found an easier method. Instead of bending a large metal tube, she slides a flexible plastic tube between two metal tubes. Hours of work go into engineering the frames and designing the balloon display.

Its busiest seasons are spring and fall.

“There aren’t many New Years parties here,” she said.

Last spring was her best season yet for sales, and she attributes that to the rise in popularity of organic balloon designs and marquee letters and people coming out of the COVID pandemic.