Is there a worse career choice during a pandemic than fireworks specialist and balloon artist?
Matthew Hutchinson, from a third-generation Omemee farm family, is not deterred. Matthew operates The Ballooning Company and Supernova Fireworks and has long been an enthusiast of art with a twist and a flash.
The inspiration for balloon art was the children’s pastor at Calvary Pentecostal Church.
Her alter ego, Mrs. Twist, incorporated balloon art into the Bible stories, twisting figures and making backdrops. Matthew was fascinated.
With Mrs. Twist as his mentor, nine-year-old Matthew began joining her for birthday parties and other festive events, learning how to craft balloons into monkeys, octopuses and the ever-popular swords.
The year he started high school, Matthew, again with Mrs. Twist’s support, founded the Ballooning Company and at 16 he passed a four-hour practical exam to become the youngest certified balloon artist in Canada.
Matthew’s handle is now Super Twist and he is assisted in the business by his sister (Sister Twist) and mother (Mother Twist). Together, they sell balloons and provide entertainment and displays for any kind of special event.
Before balloons came on the scene, Matthew was drawn to the spectacle of fireworks. He would eagerly plan fireworks shows for his family.
“Birthdays, Victoria Day and Canada Day — any excuse for a show,” he says.
“I’d work in favourites such as horse-tails (fireworks that break and come down like a waterfall), and anything with blues and purples, which are more uncommon.”
Matthew was a boy with a plan.
“When I was 10 years old I knew I wanted to do fireworks full-time, have my own store and shoot my own shows.”
After graduating from high school, he earned a fireworks licence from Natural Resources Canada and created Supernova Fireworks to offer fireworks for sale and orchestrate shows.
Not your run-of-the-mill firework displays. Matthew includes 30 cm shells (known in the trade as 12-inch shells) that fill the night sky, rocketing up over 300 metres high and spreading out the same distance.
One of his specialties is pyro-musicals— fireworks synchronized with music.
In 2017, for Canada’s 150th , the company presented 40 shows.
In 2018, with the support of local sponsors, Matthew mounted a pyro musical at a property on Little Britain Road where close to 5,000 people attended.
Matthew hired a lead technical manager for choreography, and steadily increased the number of licensed technicians he can send out.
Then came the pandemic, bursting his balloon bubble and making his fireworks business, for the time, a dud.
There was cancellation after cancellation.
By now, though, the balloon business has become a side gig since he’s much more hopeful about the fireworks. Although sales were down by 50 per cent in May, for Canada Day they were double what they’d been in 2019.
“You need to roll with what comes at you and be adaptive,” he says.
Matthew has plans. Shows mounted from barges on lakes and enjoyed from a boat or a Muskoka chair on a dock are still possible, and he’s doing some of those.
And for this year’s Lindsay Ex he’s just awaiting City approval for a pyro-musical.
There’ll be the same oohs and ahhs as fireworks go off, but families will enjoy the wonder of it all from their cars, as the music from their speakers fills the air and their hearts.