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Gaither students inflate 120,000 balloons for iconic drop at RNC

The shot is vintage Americana: The party nominee lifts his running mate's arm, they smile broadly and thousands and thousands of balloons drop from the rafters to envelope them in a sea of red, white and blue.

But stop for a minute and ask yourself: Who inflated all of those balloons?

In the case of this week's Republican National Convention, the answer is close to home. A group of students from Gaither High School helped inflate more than 120,000 red, white and blue balloons Friday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It was all part of the preparations for the iconic "balloon drop" the final night of the convention next Thursday.

The students inflated an estimated 20,000-plus balloons an hour using a method developed by Treb Heining of the GlassHouse Balloon Co. in Anaheim, Calif. He was there to witness the process.

Heining is somewhat of a celebrity because of his balloon skills. He invented the balloon-within-a-balloon and the balloon with a light inside. And he has helped stage drops of more than a million balloons. He can inflate and tie up to 1,000 balloons an hour, according to an MSNBC profile.

In 1988, Heining developed a system that allowed large numbers of volunteers to inflate upwards of 20,000 balloons an hour in preparation for the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. With minor modifications, his system is still in use today.

A group of students from Gaither High School helped inflate more than 120,000 red, white and blue balloons Friday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

A group of students from Gaither High School helped inflate more than 120,000 red, white and blue balloons Friday morning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Gaither students inflate 120,000 balloons for iconic drop at RNC 08/24/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 24, 2012 7:12pm]
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