More than 125,000 biodegradable balloons are lifting holiday spirits this weekend in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District. The Big Balloon Build — an international festival — is popping up Dec. 2-4 at the Gregg/Klice Community Center.
Led by Peyton Westfall and Darren Huffman of Kansas City’s Pop Culture Sculptures, more than 70 balloon artists from across the globe descended on KC this week to build a magical holiday toy town.
“My heart grew like the Grinch — more than three sizes — having an amazing family of balloon artists behind me to come to Kansas City and bring the joy of balloons to change our community,” Westfall said at a press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony for the event.
Westfall and Huffman also partnered with the Troost Market Collective and co-founder Crissy Dastrup to make it all happen. Dastrup, who also is a candidate for KCMO’s City Council 4th District in the April 4 election, called the event an incredible few days for the 18th and Vine area.
“I also really want to give a special shout out to the Troost Market Collective for showing how much involvement and how much community and working together for collaboration really means,” Huffman said. “You can achieve so much more when you work together. And we’ve definitely seen that not just with the artistry but with the way the community and all these vendors came together.”
All proceeds from the Big Balloon Build KC — one of only two in the U.S. — go to support programming for Operation Breakthrough’s Ignition Lab and the Troost Market Collective. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
“It’s a way to bring the community together to really — not only celebrate this neighborhood — but to celebrate children and families in Kansas City,” said Mary Esselman, CEO and president of Operation Breakthrough. “The fact that the community is coming to wrap itself around children and families is what makes this weekend really exciting and to do it in a way that brings joy across Kansas City.”
Click here to buy tickets for the Big Balloon Build KC.
Check out a photo gallery from the Kansas City balloon installation below, then keep reading.
Westfall and Huffman first connected with Big Balloon Build Director Stuart Davies — who is from Wales — at the World Balloon Convention in San Diego in 2018, they said, and have been working on preparations for the event for more than 18 months.
“It almost feels like we were preparing to have a baby and a wedding and have a family reunion all at the same time,” Westfall joked.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Huffman added. “But it’s here now.”
Also popping up at 18th and Vine Jazz District this weekend is the Art Garden KC x Soul of Santa Holiday Market, Holiday Pop-Up Bar Happy Hours and Clockwork Noël Gala. Tucker Lott, who founded the Soul of Santa non-profit organization, shared that the weekend will be one filled with celebration and holiday cheer.
“This is the biggest and best thing I could have ever thought of,” Lott said in reference to the Big Balloon Build happening just across the street from the Soul of Santa Holiday Market. “It makes the whole district light up. In addition, all of the toys collected [at the Big Balloon Build] will go to the Soul of Santa, so I can give them away to the kids.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.