“Do these balloons blow up into funny shapes?” asked a man eyeing a display rack in a Midwest convenience store. Feisty old cashier: “Well, no…not unless round is funny.”
-From 1987 Coen Brothers comedy “Raising Arizona”
MARYSVILLE – Funny thing about balloons: they’re popping up in more places around the Marysville-Arlington area as a colorful, less -costly alternative décor for parties and events.
Chances are if you see an elaborate display of balloons, the creative minds at Classique Designs in Marysville created it.
“I have to constantly remind people that balloons are not just for kids’ birthdays anymore,” said Bobbi Pohl, owner of Classique Designs.
Her most-recent creation was a Seahawks float featuring a large lighted helmet during the Merrysville for the Holidays Electric Lights Parade Dec. 2. The display helped her earn her third Mayor’s Choice Award in the past four years. Her best-ever Disney “Frozen” float wowed parade-goers two years ago.
“I was shocked we took the award last month,” Pohl said. She loved listening to the positive reactions while walking behind the float. “All I kept hearing was, ‘Go Hawks, go Hawks.’”
Pohl got her start in the business in 1995 after working as a bartender – transitioning from saloons to balloons.
A friend whose daughter had a wedding coming up asked if she could design a heart-shaped balloon arch. Display and Costume in Everett was hosting a seminar on balloon decorating at the time, and after watching a master at work, Pohl was confident she could produce the heart arch.
“It looked terrible, but the bride loved it, and I had so much fun doing it,” Pohl said.
It was another three years of do-it-yourself videos, DVDs, classes and more seminars, and purchasing the right quality of balloons, that Classique Designs really got off the ground.
Her husband, Earl, said, “You’ve got a flair for this; you should start a business.”
Since then, her business has expanded into anniversaries, corporate events, holiday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, retirements, proms, graduations, fundraisers, grand openings, employee appreciation parties, sporting events, political events and yes, birthdays.
While the company has grown to offer decorating ideas from fun and festive to romantic ambiance, it specializes in silk floral and balloon décor, including picture frames, centerpieces, columns, bouquets, topiaries, canopies, sculptures and special effects. Balloon bouquets and delivery are a big hit, too, and they have access to additional rental equipment to round out any event.
Local events where their handiwork has appeared include the The Brew and Cider Fest, Poochapalooza, Weston High School prom, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County fundraisers, and holiday parties for the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club.
Her bread and butter has been building relationships with the casinos at Tulalip, Quil Ceda Creek and Angel of the Winds.
“They say what they want and turn us loose,” she said.
Among the casinos, her balloon décor has lit up main entrances, gaming floors, the Tulalip Amphitheater and ballrooms.
Her favorite event, though, is The Chief for a Day, when law enforcement agencies celebrate the lives of children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening or chronic medical condition.“The day is all about giving kids a day of fun that they and their families will never forget, if only for one day,” Pohl said.
Each child is transported by police motorcade to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien, dressed from head to toe in uniforms from their sponsoring agency along with a hat and badge, sworn in as “Chief” or “Sheriff” for the day, and given school supplies, toys, hotel and gas vouchers and other gifts that lighten the load for them and their families.
“All the kids put on a smile, a lot of them are in pain or are extremely ill, but they get out of that car, and the State Patrol line up and salute each kid as they come through,” said Pohl, who teared up as she described the scene.
In 2016, 33 policing agencies participated, including the Tulalip and Stillaguamish police departments.
Pohl said her company promotes the balloon décor.
“You get the biggest bang for your buck with balloons,” she said. “Balloons give you more impact than a bouquet of flowers in the center of a table. They’re big and colorful.”
Pohl credits Bernice Gitchel for taking Classique Designs in more directions with her creative eye.
“She says we’ve got to get out of the box, using draping, lighting and whatever else we need to use to pull off the decorating for customers,” Pohl said. And, thanks to Gitchel, they can pull off making balloon animals, too. “Bernice is a twister. Making balloon animals is all in the wrist.”
You would think Pohl and her team need a healthy set of lungs to breath so much air into their creations. Fortunately, they use compressors that can handle one or two at a time.
They use high-quality biodegradable balloons that are thicker, able to withstand adverse weather and generally kid-proof. Most of the time. “There’s nothing like a four-year-old with chopsticks,” Pohl said of one experience.
“Balloons keep you young,” Pohl said. “The kids love you.”
One kid that didn’t like balloons so much growing up was Pohl’s daughter. “She absolutely hates balloons.”
When Pohl started learning the business, she kept a “ton of balloons” around the house, she said.
“So when the granddaughters were at school and my daughter was at work, I used to sneak into the house and dump them in there, so she had to deal with these hundreds of balloons floating around the house,” said the merry prankster.
Then Pohl would bring them back to the house.
“My daughter would be so mad at me and I would tell her, ‘I’m making a memory,’” Pohl said. “The girls are going to remember this. And do they ever.”