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Wichita’s Pioneer supplies 100,000 balloons for Thursday’s GOP gala

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, August 30, 2012, at 12:10 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, August 30, 2012, at 12:25 p.m.

When the balloons drop Thursday night, dancing and twirling through the Republicans as they celebrate their nominee Mitt Romney and their hopes for November, Wayne Roberts will know that his company played a role in creating the iconic moment.

Roberts, vice president of Pioneer Balloon Company, said the Wichita company supplied the 100,000 balloons that are to drop from the rafters of Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The balloon drop and associated swirl of confetti are being orchestrated by Treb Heining, who has provided services at GOP conventions since 1988. Heining works with GOP convention producers to put together what has become the traditional ending to national political conventions.

Roberts says Pioneer’s business relationship with Heining is longstanding.

“We’ve worked with him forever,” Roberts said. “When he has a big project, he comes to us.”

Heining, reached by phone at the convention center in Tampa, said he’s been using Pioneer balloons since he started out as an aspiring teenage balloon salesman in the 1960s in California. He met Pioneer’s executives, he said, in about 1980, and has enjoyed working with the company.

He said putting together the show-ending balloon and confetti drop requires a lot of preparation — and sharply timed releases, with about 20 different cues for dropping balloons, confetti or both, coming in a short amount of time.

“I never sleep very well the night before,” he said. Heining and his team show up at the convention hall about 12 hours early, just to check and recheck things to try to ensure a flawless show.

Pioneer, which was founded in 1917, is providing the 100,000 balloons in roughly equal quantities of red, white and blue, Roberts said. They’re 9 inches in diameter

Another 140 3-foot balloons from Pioneer will be mixed in as part of the show.

Roberts said Pioneer appreciates the business from Heining and the size of the order, but he said 100,000 balloons doesn’t require workers at Pioneer’s plants to add shifts.

Pioneer’s workers typically produce 5 million balloons a day.

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