Genesee Fair: Artist puts twist on balloons
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Genesee Fair: Artist puts twist on balloons

Jul 19, 2012

Janice Spagnola

Janice Spagnola

Artist Janice Spagnola helps 10-year-old Grace Morrill shape a balloon creation Wednesday at Genesee County Fair. Spagnola will create a barnyard balloon diorama through Saturday. (Rocco Laurienzo/Daily News)


Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:30 am

BATAVIA — Janice Spagnola was a mere 8-year-old when she witnessed her life’s calling.

She and her classsmates were being entertained at a school assembly. The young Spagnola was captivated and knew she wanted do the same herself.

She’s now bringing the same sense of artistry, whimsy and entertainment to Genesee County Fair. Call it balloon art with a twist.

“I’m going to be using at least 1,000 balloons or more,” Spagnola said Wednesday of the giant barnyard diorama she’s creating almost entirely from balloons. “Maybe 1,500 for the set-up ... You could probably say I’ll be using between 1,500 and 2,000.”

By the time she’s done Saturday, the diorama will feature a red barn, a cornfield with scarecrow, a lady feeding chickens, a pond and more. She’s also hosting demonstrations 6 and 8 p.m. each evening at her space in the fair’s Mercantile Building.

Much of the input has been from children walking through the barn — stuff like the giant-sized barn.

“That’s the fun of it,” she said. “It’s entertainment, like a butter carver or that kind of thing.”

So how’d Spagnola, 50, build a career in balloon art?

The Wheatfield resident attended circus school, where she learned all the basics of a circus career. She branched out into large-scale balloon art in 2004, when she worked with other artists on the Balloon Manor haunted house in Rochester, which gained national attention.

And things took off from there.

Spagnola now operates Air Sculpture Transforming Balloons into Art. It’s a business centered on her unique career focus, whether creating sculptures, hosting workshops, or even developing balloon-based clothing.

Each creation gradually acquires a liveliness and beauty of its own.

“I’m making it up as I go along, but there are different twists,” she said. “Different weaves and stuff you kind of learn. But after that, there’s not an instruction manual for it. I’m just putting it together as I go.”

Spagnola typically works up to 12 hours per day, with breaks in between. The finished products are eye-catching, often highly colorful, and get their share of attention — almost like cartoons, but with an emphasis on balloons.

“I try to make them look like coloring book pages,” she said of the dioramas. “But always in my head is, ‘Would that make a good coloring book page?’”

So who likes the creations more? Adults or kids?

“You know what, adults have never seen it before,” Spagnola said. “So they like it. That’s why we have the chairs lined up, because some of the old people come and sit — it’s just something they’ve never seen.

“Kids haven’t seen it before either, but they’re not as wonder-lost, because they expect it. Because they’re young, right? If you’re a tiny little kid, you can imagine it. It’s for all ages. It’s so new it’s something nobody have eve seen before. It’ s kind of like I invented my own job.”

For more glimpses of Spagnola’s creations visit


Fair schedule

Today: Genesee County RACEWAY 5 DAY

9 a.m. — 4-H Dairy Show & Showmanship, Show Ring

9 a.m. — 4-H Horses In Place

9 a.m. — Open Goat Show Open Class, Barn

10 a.m. — 4-H Horse Show, Fitting, Showmanship and English, Horse Ring

11 a.m. — Exhibit halls and buildings open

1 p.m. — 4-H Goat Knowledge Olympics Contest, Livestock Building

2 p.m. — 4-H Horse Show Dressage Classes, Horse Ring

2-4 p.m. — Wildlife ID Fun Fair Activity, Exhibition Building

4 p.m. Midway opens, Amusement Area

5-7 p.m. — 4-H Meat Auction Buyers Dinner

6 p.m. — 4-H Horse Driving Demonstration, Horse Ring

6 p.m. — Small Fry Tractor Pull, Exhibition Building

6 p.m. — Raceway 5 Special Stock Car Races, Grandstand

7 p.m. — “The Watering Trough” Beer Garden, Festival Tent

7 p.m. — 4-H Meat Animal Auction, Show Ring

8-11pm — The Trolls band, Festival Tent

8:30 p.m. — Karaoke Finals, Exhibition Hall Stage

10 p.m. — Exhibit halls and buildings close

Friday: Community Day & Thrill Night

7 a.m. — Craft Show Set-up

9 a.m. — 4-H Sheep Breeds and Showmanship, Show Ring

Open Class Sheep Show immediately follows, Open Class Barn

11 a.m. — Exhibit halls and buildings open

11 a.m. — 4-H Horse Show Fitting, Showmanship and Western, Horse Ring

1 p.m. — 4-H and Open Class Beef Show and Showmanship, Show Ring

2 to 4 p.m. — Cool Cloverbuds Fun Activity, Kennedy Building

3 to 6 p.m. — GPS & Energy Fun Challenge, Exhibition Building

3 p.m. — 4-H Goat Obstacle Course Contest, Livestock Building

4 p.m. — Midway opens, Amusement Area

5 p.m. — Genesee County Fair Queen Pageant, Exhibition Hall Stage

5:30 p.m. — 4-H Tractor Driving Contest

6 p.m. — NIOGA Jr. Showmanship, Show Arena

6 p.m. — Small Fry Tractor Pull, Exhibition Building

7 to 9 p.m. — “I Milked a Dairy Goat” Fair-goers participation event

7 p.m. — “The Watering Trough” Beer Garden, Festival Tent

7 p.m. — County Fair Grand Demolition Derby, Grandstand

8 to 11 p.m. — “Monster Johnson” band, Festival Tent

10 p.m. — Exhibit halls and buildings close

Saturday — Genesee County Farm Bureau Day & Bring Your Tractor to the Fair Day

9 a.m. — NIOGA Open Class Dairy Show Show Ring

10 a.m. — 4-H Horse Gymkhana & Games Classes Horse Ring

11 a.m. — Exhibit halls & buildings open

11 a.m. — Genesee County Fair Craft Show

11 a.m. — 4-H Goat Costume Contest Livestock Building

12 p.m. — MIdway opens, Amusement Area

1 p.m. — Farm Stock Tractor Pulls Grandstand

1 p.m. — 4-H Goat Bowl Contest Livestock Building

2 to 4 p.m. — 4-H Vegetable Art Fun Fair Activity Kennedy Building

3 to 6 p.m. — 4-H Energy Fun Challenge Exhibition Building

6 p.m. — Small Fry Big Pull-off Exhibition

6:30 p.m. — “The Watering Trough” Beer Garden Festival Tent

6:30 p.m. — WNY Garden Tractor Pulls Grandstand

Two pulling tracks running at the same time

6:30 p.m. — WNY Pro-Farm Puller Tractor Pulls Grandstand

9 to 11 p.m. — “Savage Cabbage” band Festival Tent

11 p.m. — Midway closes

12 a.m. — “The Watering Trough” closes 

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