Something about how balloons cradle the invisible and defy gravity makes people happy.
“Oh man, the best part about it is people light up. They’re happy because of a balloon. I get to give them that every time,” Smiles said.
That’s what he tells people to call him. His real name is Miles Sidener. When Sidener first tried to learn to twist balloons he quit because he was so bad at it. Then he saw the 2007 film “Twisted: A Balloonamentary,” a heartwarming look at the lives of balloon-twisters, their quirky attitudes and outlooks and how their art changed their lives.
“That was me. Those are my people,” he told himself. “I knew what I was doing from then on.”
Determined to learn the art, he taught himself to twist balloons watching videos. His garage became a “balloon graveyard” with all his creations, but it only took a needle to make more room.
Sidener moved to Clarkston from Phoenix seven years ago with his wife, Victoria. Smiles the Clown was born two years later on Dec. 15, the day Sidener created his alter ego’s Facebook page.
Smiles took him places. He went from cooking at Zany Graze in Lewiston to twisting balloons Tuesday nights for the restaurant’s patrons. Now he’s putting himself through school at Walla Walla Community College in Clarkston twisting for birthdays, private parties and weddings and delivering balloons on holidays and special occasions. He goes though tens of thousands of balloons a year, he said. He dreams of one day building a balloon sculpture hundreds of feet high.
“When somebody asks for something I’ve never made, I get pretty excited,” said Sidener, 40.
The most common thing people ask for is a dog. He can make five different dogs. His favorite creation is a rose encased in a transparent vase. The most difficult thing he’s ever twisted was a the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It took him 12 hours and a couple hundred balloons. He built it around a stool so people could sit on it during the opening of the Harley-Davidson outlet in Lewiston.
His two children, Sunshine, a third-grader, and Marius, a preschooler, think it’s great to have a clown for a dad. Sunshine can show you how to twist a balloon dog in two minutes, he said.
“Balloons are for everybody, not just children. Everybody loves balloons, except for people who are deathly afraid of them.”
Smiles the Clown can be contacted by calling (509) 295-3876 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.