- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

NEW YORK — Treb Heining never has had a problem with a balloon drop.

And he doesn’t plan to tonight.

“I have a reputation for doing things on a large scale,” said the man in charge of making sure that the 120,000 red, white and blue balloons fall on cue from the Madison Square Garden ceiling at the end of the Republican National Convention.

The balloon drop is the climax of the party and the photo opportunity of the convention.

The pressure is on Mr. Heining, who has been in charge of balloons and confetti for the past four Republican conventions and who owns Newport Beach, Calif., balloon-event producer Treb Inc.

The failed drop at the Democratic National Convention — when CNN aired convention director Don Mischer cursing because the balloons and confetti were not falling — has ensured that everyone will be watching to see whether the balloons and 400 pounds of confetti float down on cue.

“This is probably the most stressful event you can put on,” Mr. Heining said.

But he says he’s not any more nervous than usual.

“It’s a very tense moment … but it’s always been tense for us,” he said. “You always have those butterflies. I can’t say I won’t be nervous, because I always am.”

The balloons have been safely ensconced in more than 50 nets in the rafters since Friday, waiting to drop on almost 5,000 delegates after President Bush speaks.

Mr. Heining doesn’t know when the first cue will be — the balloons will drop in waves — and he will have to rely on 17 crew members to actually pull the cords that open the nets. He knows that, because of the Democratic problem, people will grow concerned quickly if officials wait too long to give the cue.

Mr. Heining has been responsible for the balloons in Super Bowl halftime shows, the Academy Awards, Olympic opening ceremonies and presidential inaugurations, among other events. He also is in charge of the 3,000 pounds of confetti that rains down on Times Square revelers every New Year’s Eve.

Considered the father of balloon art in the industry, he created the balloon arch and owns three Guinness World Records. He got his start at 15 working at Disneyland and can hand tie 1,000 balloons in an hour.

Hand-tying and the quality of the balloons here — “they are the Rolls Royce” of balloons — mean that the air-filled balloons can stay inflated for weeks, he said. Mr. Heining hired (for a $6,000 donation) 115 Baldwinville, N.Y., band students and their parents to inflate the balloons.

The balloons were blown up by machine, then hand tied and put in funnels to the nets.

“They’re the least important thing on Friday, then they become the most important thing,” Mr. Heining said. “You just keep your fingers crossed.”

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