Pre-Party Prep Underway for OctoBIRDfest

By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager on September 18th, 2013

Anybody who’s hosted a big party knows how much effort and attention to detail must occur before the big day. OctoBIRDfest at the Woodson Art Museum is no exception
OctoBIRDfest is the Woodson Art Museum’s fine-feathered, fall festival for the young and young at heart.

This year’s 23rd-annual OctoBIRDfest, Saturday, September 28, 11 am-3 pm, features a fun, new addition: a giant balloon phoenix sculpture that the balloon artist will finish indoors, at the base of the Museum’s new glassed-in stairway while he interacts with festival visitors.

Then – amid plenty of fanfare and oohs and ahhs from spectators – the phoenix will rise and remain suspended for a while in this glassed-in “aviary,” visible as visitors traverse the sidewalk toward the Museum’s main entrance – a fitting welcome during the 2013 Birds in Art exhibition.

In preparation, Madison-area balloon artist Michael Keeney has been busy “making things to make things to make things.”

Keeney, of Airigami Balloon Creations, explains that to create his balloon phoenix he has to start by building an armature or “skeleton” from plastic pipe. To achieve the necessary skeletal curves, he has to bend the rigid PVC pipe by heating sand, pouring it into the ¾-inch pipe, and sculpting the softened pipe into the correct shapes by using jigs and molds. Keeney made his own by gluing hundreds of small cradles into the proper shape. The sand softens the pipe so “it becomes flexible like a garden hose” but keeps it from collapsing and crimping – like my garden hose so often and annoyingly does.

This week Keeney is scooping heaps of sand onto big baking trays to heat in an oven for two to three hours to get the sand to the required 500+degrees. Whew! Who knew? I sure didn’t.

A flurry of preparations has been underway here, too, and ramp up will continue during the coming days as the Museum prepares to host OctoBIRDfest.

The thousands who flock to the Museum on the big day discover that the early bird gets the . . . pick of the pumpkin patch, the best view in the stairwell aviary of Keeney putting the final touches on his balloon phoenix, first spots in line for caricature drawings, art projects, balloon animals, and an assortment of games and prizes.

Once you’ve made your way into the outdoor sculpture garden, here’s what you can expect:

Pumpkin Patch: Thanks to the generosity of the Wausau Noon Optimists, each child gets one free pumpkin. Bring a camera for photos and take advantage of a festive, fall backdrop.

Make It/ Take It Art Activities: Flock to the art tent to feather your nest and adorn your refrigerator art gallery with your wee ones’ artwork.

Caricature drawings: Caricature artists will produce black-and-white drawings of those who choose to be depicted in playfully exaggerated ways.

Strolling Entertainment: 11 am to 1 pm

Certainly, the price is right for other fun. Get five tickets for a dollar, and enjoy an assortment of games and fun activities.

  • Balloon Twisters: Two favorite clowns: Dizzy D. Clown and Mr. C. Story – tirelessly twist balloons into whimsical animals and hat creations.
  • Games and Prizes: Get a big bang for a buck with 20-cent games. All players can take game-winning tickets to the prize tent, where an array of choices awaits.

Food: Let your nose be your guide, following aromas to the Museum’s popcorn stand, the Wausau Community Theatre’s food stand, and goodies at a Kwik Trip table – all offered for purchase.

While you’re at the Woodson Art Museum, be sure to explore this year’s Birds in Art exhibition in the galleries. Birds in Art remains on view through Sunday, November 10. As always at the Woodson Art Museum, admission is free.

Just imagine the flurry of activity that occurs each year preparing for all of the above. The Museum is hosting; just come and enjoy the party!

For more information, call the Woodson Art Museum at 715.845.7010, email, visit, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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