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Today's word on journalism

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dueling masters on words:

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

--William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

--Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961), on William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962)

Making balloon animals is both business and pleasure for USU freshman

By Krista Meeks

March 6, 2006 | Balloon animals have not been just a favorite childhood pastime for USU student Joel ZaeJoDaeus, 18, they also have been a symbol for his hard work and practice. Whether it be parties or fundraisers, ZaeJoDaeus loves sharing his unique talent with others whenever he can.

At the age of 14, ZaeJoDaeus and his three older brothers were sought out by Bryce Jackman, who was in the entertainment industry in Denver. All four boys were taken under Jackman's wing and did an apprenticeship where they each learned the techniques of balloon sculpting.

Jackman contracted the boys out to different restaurants and events in the Denver area. There, ZaeJoDaeus said they would move from dinner table to dinner table or person to person, asking for balloon animal requests.

Each brother became very talented, but young ZaeJoDaeus quickly surpassed his brothers. The brothers had gigs every week, but ZaeJoDaeus said, "I did it the most. Money is good when you're in high school and have a girlfriend."

After two years with Jackman, ZaeJoDaeus said he decided to break out on his own. "Jackman was just too flaky," he said, "and he wanted us to start doing other things like fire breathing, which we didn't want to do." ZaeJoDaeus started contracting himself with other restaurants, eventually getting hired to do big events and kids' nights. "Word of mouth," he said, "really helped me get my name out there."

"A lot of crazy things happen at the gigs I do," ZaeJoDaeus said, "especially at the tables with a bunch of the moms having a night out." He said he gets the most bizarre requests at these tables, most of which he couldn't mention.

ZaeJoDeaus said one of the highlights of his career and his "claim to fame" happened when he was 14 years old. He got asked out by Miss Colorado after making her a balloon animal at a restaurant. "I didn't know who she was at the time and she didn't know I was 14, but by the time I found out and went back to her table, she was gone," he said.

ZaeJoDaeus has invented many of his own balloon sculptures, like a man on a motorcycle, a pregnant kangaroo and a scorpion. After Lezlee Larsen, 22, saw ZaeJoDaeus make balloon animals, she said, "I have never seen balloon animals like Joel's before. He completely takes the art of balloon sculpting to an entirely different level."

"I come from an artistic family, and this is my form of art. All you need is imagination," ZaeJoDaeus said, "and once you know the techniques, you can figure pretty much anything out."
There are a lot of different techniques that need to be learned about balloon sculptures, ZaeJoDaeus said. "First, people need to realize that the balloon most likely won't pop. Once they understand that, then the rest will come," he said. "The basic method of tying balloon animals is the pinch and twist technique, not just the twist. Don't let go of either end, or else the balloon will unravel. Speed comes after lots of time and practice.

Sometimes people don't understand the difficulty of simply blowing up the balloon, ZaeJoDaeus said. At a restaurant in Colorado, a "big, beefy man" at one of the tables poked fun at ZaeJoDaeus because he was using a balloon pump to blow up the balloon, he said. The man asked to have a balloon to see if he could blow it up on his own.

ZaeJoDaeus said, "After a while of trying and getting nowhere, the man started turning colors and passed out in his own plate of spaghetti right as the manager of the restaurant walked by. I wanted to run away!

Now ZaeJoDaeus is a freshman at Utah State University planning to study film after he serves an LDS mission. He has been contracting with various restaurants in the Cache Valley area, including Firehouse Pizzeria in Providence, which was his first gig in Utah.

"Not only does Joel provide the entertainment," said Megan Ryan, assistant manager at Firehouse Pizza, "Joel has increased Firehouse Pizza's ability to personalize the guests' experience."

ZaeJoDaeus can be found at Firehouse Pizza on the weekends. For those who are unaware of balloon animal etiquette, tips are appreciated, ZaeJoDaeus said.

ZaeJoDaeus is working with his older brother, Rufus, in their self-made company, Balloon Bros. To contact Joel ZaeJoDaeus to schedule an event, email him at or call 435-760-3011.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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