It was a very hot summer some 20 to 25 years ago when hundreds of balloon artists, entertainers and decorators, gathered in Athens, Georgia, USA.
It was a time when "the South" (of the USA) was known for "Southern Hospitality" rather than for controversy over the Confederate Flag the way it is today.
Bobby and Maxine Burton of Flowers, Inc Balloons (now Burton & Burton) were rising stars of the balloon industry. They were especially well know for their Southern Hospitality and their great "Open House" events each summer."
This particular summer, that hospitality included an outdoor event under tents at the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park. Decorations at the main tent included a large red, white and blue balloon display made with my very own Rouse Designer Panels.
The Rouse Panels were relatively new at the time. They were the first modular panels designed specifically for the professional balloon decorator. Flowers, Inc was our master distributor. We were especially eager to have everything go well.
We were concerned about the heat, 90 plus degrees! But, our display balloons were significantly under inflated. That should make them hold up better than other balloons on site. We were in the shade under the tent. We made up all the panels in an air-conditioned building. We sent them over to the installation site by enclosed truck. We did that as late as we could. Oxidation was inevitable but we were sure it would go together easily and look good.
We took the step of labeling each panel on the back with a row number and position number within the row. That would make it easier to lay out the panels before assembly.
We had a bright, young balloon artist and Open House instructor in charge at the installation site. He was from "up north", but we did not hold that against him.
On the other hand, he did make a mistake, even though it was a mistake that I might well have made myself in his situation.
He saw all those red, white and blue balloons along with the stars on many of them. He knew right away from the balloons and the generally patriotic theme of the event that this was a flag design that he could assemble "in his sleep" as it were. There was no need to use those markings on the back of the panels. That would just slow things down.
Only, after more that a couple of hours of trying to put this red,white and blue puzzle together, he could not figure it out. I am sure he imagined that we had really messed up things on our end while loading balloons on those Rouse Designer Panels.
When we finally talked (There were no cell phones available in those days for immediate communication) we solved the red white and blue puzzle MadeWithBalloons.
And, we did it just in time, too. Busses would soon be sending all the conventioneers to our "Dixie" celebration of balloons and southern hospitality.
Guests were supposed to be greeted there with a giant red white and blue flag, for sure. But, it was not the American flag as assumed by our man in charge of installation.
It was the Confederate flag, intended to focus attention on the Southern Hospitality that was then and remains now such a rich part of southern heritage.
Today, decades later, the Confederate flag has a different public connotation. At our event, however, the flag was made ready just in time and served well to welcome everyone to the party.
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