BILOXI -- Krystal Guerrero considers herself to be both an expert "twister" and decorator when it comes to balloons.
"A twister is someone -- a lot of times it's a clown -- who twists balloons into shapes, and a decorator makes sculptures out of balloons," Guerrero said.
She will be taking her passion for balloon sculpting to New Orleans next week when she will compete with a balloon sculpting team at the World Balloon Convention.
"This is my second year to be on team USA for the largest balloon sculpture," she said. "There are teams for all over the world, and they all have their own teams."
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Guerrero will be on a team of about 15. The team will work on a piece designed by the head decorator. They will have 27 hours in which to complete the task, which will then be judged.
"We've been in contact for a while now and we've seen the concept, so we've been communicating and dividing up the tasks and practicing our parts," she said.
The sculpture, once completed, will be 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide, she said.
"I have no idea how many balloons this will take," Guerrero said. "All we've seen is a drawing of the sculpture.
Up up and away
A native of Gulfport, Guerrero owns and operates AIRmazing Balloons and Gift Shop in Biloxi. She said she became interested in balloon sculpting after Hurricane Katrina.
"When Katrina hit in 2005, I had just graduated from USM and I moved to Las Vegas with the casino I was working for and I was an event coordinator out there," she said. "They would hire decorators to do these events and I was so amazed by the balloon decorating company."
After being awed by the balloon artists, Guerrero said she started observing their work.
"When I moved back, I needed a balloon sculpture and there were no companies that did it, so I thought, 'Maybe I could do this.'"
So, Guerrero did what anyone with an interest in learning would do -- she went to balloon school.
"I started looking around the Internet and trying to do it on my own, and then I found a balloon school in Florida," she said. "This really helped my passion with the balloons because I learned how to tie them without making my fingers bleed."
Twisting and tying
Guerrero said she can't wait to leave for New Orleans.
"This is the first year the convention has been this close, so that's added to my excitement," she said.
The competition has several categories, ranging from large and medium sculptures to balloon hat and fashion.
"It's intense, because you have to get this done in 27 hours straight, so everyone is working their butts off trying to win," Guerrero said.
One of the challenges of being on the team, she said, is the different levels and areas of skill.
"Everybody is at a different level of skill," she said. "But just like anything, you also have a lot of 'know-it-alls,' too."