'Balloon man' urges kids to let imagination soar

Rob Holladay, the Magical Balloon Guy, visited the Tahlequah Public Library in 2019.

When Rob Holladay's around, a thin tube of plastic can become almost anything.

All it takes is imagination -- and a library can help with that.

That's the lesson Holladay tells during a balloon show now available online through the Tahlequah Public Library. The show, aimed at young children, can be viewed at any time on the library's Facebook page, along with a number of other virtual programs for children and adults.

As the show began, "Rock Around the Clock" played while Holladay, billed as the Magical Balloon Guy, took a round balloon, added long ones and folded them together to make an animal. It, and subsequent balloon creations, went home with kids in the audience who served as Holladay's assistants. The program was videotaped at another library.

He blew up two white balloons with black dots on the ends, serving as eyes, and fastened them to several long tubular balloons, forming an octopus.

"Go ahead and laugh while I'm here. Don't wait until later. If you laugh outside, they'll think you're crazy," Holladay cautioned the kids. "Now you realize you're clapping for a balloon, don't you?"

Throughout his presentation, Holladay encouraged kids to take advantage of all the resources their library has to offer. He made them promise to read a lot of books -- and also never to kiss a live alligator on the lips.

Assisted by a little girl named Claire, Holladay picked various balloons from his balloon bag, but never one of the colors she requested. Finally he turned a green balloon into a puppy -- then "accidentally" smashed it. Placing the remains of the unfortunate pup into the balloon bag, he blew heartily into the paper sack -- and out came a resurrected puppy, to the amazement of Claire and the rest of the kids.

"You've got to make his front paws, not his grandpa," he joked as he shaped the puppy. Most of the jokes were on a kindergarten or first-grade level, but appreciated by his youthful audience, drawing laughter.

Holladay also put together a scene from the ninja turtles, drawing children from the audience to wear the balloon costumes for the turtles and Shredder.

Throughout the program, he praised children for using their library.

"We're going to talk about rocking this library," he said. "How many of you have been reading all summer? I think it's important to read."

Pulling out a Muppetlike creature named Blueberry, he went through more corny jokes.

Two more helpers from the audience became a prince and a princess, while a third helper was drafted to be the dragon. The prince waved his balloon sword at the dragon, but as Holladay said, no one gets killed in his show. So the dragon went home with a balloon "hot dog."

More helpers, and a web of balloons, performed a spider and fly skit.

Reading books helps people remember information and useful things like how to stay safe, Holladay said.

And one of the best things about libraries is that they're free and open to anyone.

"A library is a place that all of us can come, all of us can be a part of," he said.

He asked the children what happens at night when the library closes. The books come to life and talk, he said.

"Give me some magic like this," Holladay said, extending his arms. "Keep reading. This summer you've been reading. That gives you imagination. You'll never regret coming to the library, because that keeps things together."

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