DES MOINES, Iowa — “This is a light saber and it looks very simple but the reason why kids like it is because it does sound like a light saber,” explains Oscar Rosales from inside his south side condo. “My favorite of all time, is definitely the octopus. I like the octopus because once I finish it I can play with it in front of kids… or I can put it on a hat. It’s great, this is my buddy.”
Families across the state are more familiar with Rosales’ stage name, Professor Von Air Balloon Artist Extraordinaire.
“I always wanted to have a PHD, true story,” explains Rosales. “I never had the money for it so I just call myself professor, and air because of, well Von Air, because of the air.”
For nearly two and a half decades, Rosales has been entertaining crowds across Iowa.
“I see balloons as drawings. If I look at a drawing of a cartoon or something it’s basically a balloon just instead of a balloon you have lines. So the challenge is taking those lines, twisting them and making it look like the cartoon.”
Though he does have a “normal” day job, Rosales says he works that in order to help feed his “obsession” for balloons.
“I could be having a bad day or an okay but the moment I start interacting with people and I see how they react, I think ‘wow, that feels great’ and it gives me the opportunity to keep going and feel great” said Rosales.
Typically, this time of year, Rosales would be in the midst of his busy season.
“My normal season begins around April,” he explains. “And that goes on through basically October or November. The biggest weekend for me though is the 4th of July.
When you sprinkle in town festivals, corporate celebrations and private events, the Professor entertains thousands of people every year.
“Last year was probably one of the best years I ever had, I was really really busy and I knew this year was going to be like even busier” exclaimed Rosales.
But then the Coronavirus pandemic hit.
“For the year, I had one job.”
Which means less smiles for the Professor and his fans.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” he says with a frown. “It’s like when you look forward to do something and you know it’s going to be great and it’s your favorite part of life… and then nope, you can’t do it. And it’s not your fault but it’s not the client’s fault either, it does hurt.”
That pain is felt in multiple ways.
“The financial aspect, I had a big bit but also I do miss interacting with people. But I know, as painful as it sounds, it was the right thing to do because I don’t want anybody to get sick or I don’t want to wind up getting sick” said Rosales.
Still, he manages to stay optimistic.
“I do consider myself one of the most fortunate ones because I do have friends that do this full time and they are in the same situation. Most of their gigs have been cancelled and some of them are using their savings, some of them are having to sell things just to keep afloat.”
“We just keep hoping that soon this is going to change.”
After all, balloon art just doesn’t translate well online.
“I could have done a better job posting videos and you know, but it’s not the same” said Rosales.
So he’s holding on hope for a brighter, more colorful days ahead.
“Yeah, I do hope, and pray, that it’s going to be a much better year.”