Poppin’ Penelope still a favorite at the county fair

Poppin Penelope rainbowPoppin’ Penelope, as she has at previous Greene County Fairs, was her own sort of Pied Piper, drawing lines of children whether she was standing outside a barbecue or cooling off in Clover Hall at the fair a week ago.

A member of the Omaha-based Balloon Brigade, Penelope has been crafting animals, insects, flowers, tiaras, rainbows, cakes and more for 14 years.

Poppin' Penelope 1She declined to guess how many balloons she has inflated and twisted in those 14 years. “I tried that once and it just made me crazy,” she said. She admitted, though, that she spends more on balloons every year than on her home mortgage.

She inflates the balloons with a pump inside a cute ’50s-style train case. They’re filled with air, not helium.

She was asked about using helium balloons to lift a 7-year-old  at his birthday party, rather like Carl Fredricksen used helium balloons to float his house to Venezuela in the 2009 Disney/Pixar movie “Up.” “I did the math on it and figured out it would cost $5,000 for the helium to lift the kid five feet. That’s all the mother needed to hear,” Penelope said.

Penelope moves fast, works hard, and seems to have a limitless number of balloon creations she can make. Her work is dependent on manual dexterity. “Arthritis? Yes, sometimes, but I work through it,” she said.


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