Turning a love of balloons into art, and a career

Faces of Chicago
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All kids love balloons. This one grew up to turn them into art seen by millions in Chicago's Pride Parade and beyond. Meet Tommy DeLorenzo of Balloons By Tommy in our latest Faces of Chicago - and subscribe on Facebook Watch to see more stories like this in the future.

Here's Tommy's story — in his own words:

I always like balloons as a kid and it  just looked like a fun way to make a living. Most people didn't think you could make a living doing it, so it made me try even harder.

We make sculptures, our bread and butter is arches and  bouquets, but we like to do fun stuff too. The biggest thing we do every year obviously is the Chicago Pride Parade. We do about 40,000 balloons for that every year. This year we did a harmony theme, so we did plants and animals. We had big giraffe costumes and birds and trees.

We stock pretty much every color, size and shape of balloons that exist. And they're always coming out with new colors, I think they released some last week; pumpkin spice was the new color for fall. That's what makes balloon special: they're marking the occasion that's happening right now.

It's definitely a challenge because no other medium can just randomly pop in your hands or float to the ceiling. There's a lot of special handling that goes into it. I still enjoy it, but it is a lot of work, especially come this Saturday we'll be working, probably six a.m. to midnight on events. So days like that are pretty tough.  It's always kind of a circus, 'cause, I mean, balloons.

I started when I lived in my parents' house; all the  balloons were kept either under my bed or in my basement. Back then I would fill the living room on the weekends with balloons, so I'm glad that my parents let me do that. When I moved out I'm sure they were ecstatic.

The industry has only been around since the 70s. With the growth of Pinterest, I think it's going to get larger. I mean everybody loves balloons. No one's ever sad to see balloons. So I think we're going up from here.

Note: this story was edited for content


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