Balloon Hunt

A cupcake, complete with a candle, is battered by the wind recently as it stands in front of the University of South Dakota Medical School building. Created by Michele Turner, this and several other balloons sculptures were part of a balloon hunt that she’s regularly created for kids and parents to enjoy.

Community members across the world are finding creative ways to stay active, engaged and optimistic during this difficult time and Vermillion is no exception.

For more than a month, Vermillion’s Michele Turner has been doing her part to brighten moods by employing a unique skill: balloon twisting.

“I started the balloon hunt as a way to cheer up my kiddos and hopefully other people in Vermillion,” Turner said. “We were just 2 weeks into social distancing, when I thought of the idea. I noticed that my kiddos seemed sad and were definitely feeling stir crazy. So I turned to my husband and I said, ‘I want to do something.’”

Turner’s husband thought creating a balloon hunt around Vermillion was a great idea so Turner got right to work.

“I got up early the next day, and created five sculptures that I put around town,” Turner said. “I let people know via my facebook page that I had created a scavenger hunt. I then took my kiddos out and we looked for the sculptures together.”

Turner’s hopes came true both for her family and the community.

“We had a great time but what really surprised me was how much pleasure it brought to the community,” Turner said. “That one post had over 17,000 views. I had never seen anything like it. People commented on how it brightened their day, how their kiddos loved it, how it helped during this challenging time.”

The results inspired the Turners to turn a one-time fun family activity into a weekly trend, though.

“When my husband and I saw the positive impact that first hunt had, he turned to me and said, we have to keep it going,” Turner said. “So what originally was going to be a one and done has now become a regular weekend hunt. I will look at the weather and decide which day would be best (typically Saturday or Sunday) and I will post on Facebook when the hunt is up.”

Turner, who has been balloon twisting for 10 years, said creating one of her balloon sculptures can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours.

Turner typically makes five sculptures per hunt and posts pictures of them on her Facebook page. Community members are then challenged to find them around town using clues provided in the pictures’ backgrounds as well as other clues given by Turner.

Before a recent hunt Turner posted pictures of the deflated balloons she was planning to use and invited people to guess what she was going to create which turned out to be a Ninja Turtle, Raphael (Guesses ranged from baby Yoda to a BLT sandwich).

“That is an awesome looking turtle, the boys will love trying to find him,” commented the winning guesser who also got to pick where the sculpture would be placed. “Thank you for all of your amazing creations bringing smiles and joy for everyone.”

Raphael joined a hippo, kangaroo, dinosaur, and cupcake for that week’s hunt.

Other sculptures have included mermaid tails, Mickey Mouse, a sloth, Hello Kitty, a bumblebee with a bouquet, Spiderman, a giant ice cream cone and even Charlie Coyote.

“Going on balloon hunts has become a favorite activity!” another fan posted, sharing a picture of their kids next to the giant cone. “Thank you so much!”

Another participant posted that they were planning on making a detour from out of town to find some of the sculptures.

Participants need to pay attention, however, or the chance to hunt will vanish.

“The only rule is that the hunt is up for one day and I take the balloons down at 8PM,”Turner said. “After I take them down, I will usually put them in my garage and let my kiddos pop the balloons the next day.”

There was no comment on how long the balloon hunts will continue.

For updates on the balloon hunts or to see more of Turner’s work, visit the Red Bird Balloons Facebook page.

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