40,000-balloon Journey on the Genesee seen by 40,000+ visitors

What’s next? Composting 250 pounds of balloons!

Rochester, NY – Rochester’s Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle of Airigami
TM (“the fine art of folding air”) are “pumped up” about the success of their Airigami Balloon Adventure 2016: Journey on the Genesee. An estimated 40,000-45,000 visitors viewed the five-story sculpture made from more than 40,000 compostable balloons in Rochester’s Sibley Building atrium (288 East Main St.) from January 25 – February 7.

“This was our seventh giant installation here in Rochester – our third annual at Sibley – and I have to say that it’s been our favorite,” says Airigami Founder and Artistic Director Larry Moss. “Partnering with the Seneca Park Zoo Society – which inspired this year’s theme – and the YMCA of Greater Rochester gave this year’s sculpture extra meaning as well as more opportunities to connect with our community.”

“We’re thrilled to have participated in such a successful community-based project in downtown Rochester. Seeing the Genesee River brought to life through balloons was truly incredible, and the awareness it has raised about conservation issues is invaluable,” says Seneca Park Zoo Society Executive Director Pamela Reed Sanchez. “We hope that after seeing the installation and learning about the Zoo Society’s My Genesee campaign, Rochesterians are inspired to protect this environmental asset and the diverse species that call it home.”

The Zoo’s first My Genesee Festival also took place on site, and featured 11 exhibitors including The Nature Conservancy, Monroe County Department of Health, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and more. All reported many meaningful discussions about the use and sustainable future of the Genesee River Watershed. Airigami also built a separate balloon exhibit depicting the Zoo’s One Cubic Foot initiative, and the Zoomobile made weekend visits.

Co-presenter, the YMCA of Greater Rochester, hoped to bring awareness to its role in the community beyond health and recreation programs.

“Airigami Balloon Adventure aligned with our mission, and we were able to showcase the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum that we’ve introduced into our after-school programs to a very receptive audience,” explains George Romell, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Rochester. “For over 160 years, we have been committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, and this project incorporated each of our pillars.”

More than 70 balloon artists and enthusiasts traveled from New York City, Canada, Texas, California, Hawaii, Ireland, the Netherlands and more, just to work with Airigami in Rochester. 

“It is fascinating to be part of this huge project, knowing it will be on display for free for a large audience,” said Millie Boon, who traveled from the Netherlands to work with Airigami for her second time. “There is no such project in Europe. It also inspires me to develop my own balloon sculptures in the Netherlands.”

Not only was Adventure viewing free, but free entertainment on weekends drew crowds of more than 5,000 per day, a large percentage of which were multi-generational families that enjoyed sharing stories of the old “Sibley’s” while making new memories.

“The Sibley Building is undergoing amazing transformations and Airigami Balloon Adventure was one of them,” said Joseph Eddy, VP of WinnDevelopment, owners of the building. “It was a destination for thousands of families, adults and children of all ages who came to experience Rochester’s unique talent and creativity. It’s that essence that we want to recapture as WinnCompanies works to redevelop The Sibley Building as the centerpiece of a revitalized Downtown.”

Visitors left their own messages in the Adventure guest book. “Thank you for encouraging imagination and creativity. I fell in love with being a child again,” wrote an anonymous visitor.  And Rochester’s Colleen Wolfe wrote: “I’m sending photos to family in New Jersey to show what we have and they don’t.”

Sunday, February 7th’s Popping Party was sold out as usual, with more than 400 participants popping the 40,000 balloons to find many prize coupons hidden inside. So, what’s next? Composting 250 pounds of leftover balloons, that’s what!

“Many people don’t realize that latex balloons are completely biodegradable. The YMCA of Greater Rochester – and we hope other groups as well – will make balloon composting a part of their fun but educational programs,” explains Airigami Creative Director Kelly Cheatle. “From start to finish, Airigami Balloon Adventure was truly a soaring success!”

Journey on the Genesee was sponsored by the Seneca Park Zoo Society, the YMCA of Greater Rochester, Qualatex Balloons, Hilton Garden Inn Rochester Downtown, the City of Rochester, Visit Rochester, The Sibley Building and WinnCompanies, 13 WHAM, Kids Out and About.com, City Newspaper, Immaginé, Spectrum Creative Arts, and more.

More about Airigami: Rochester artists and Airigami partners Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle are internationally renowned for their incredible installations, whether it’s a giant Acrocanthosaurus for the Virginia Museum of Natural History, or the world’s first piloted balloon sculpture (Fantastic Flying Octopus). Moss has earned two Guinness World’s Records, along with AP, CNN Headline, PBS and other international and national news coverage. Airigami has also made multiple appearances on The Martha Stewart ShowGood Morning America, the Today show, and at the White House.