By Ron VandenBoom
Margaret "Maggie" Clauder roamed the grounds of the Great Northern Fair last week putting smiles on the faces of young children by making animal characters out of balloons, but making kids smile is nothing new for this 29-year-old dynamo.
Better known to fairgoers as "The Balloon Lady," Clauder is also a magician, a ventriloquist, a story-teller, a mother, and a business person with a four-year degree in marketing something that comes in very handy when managing her entertainment company of approximately 75 mimes, jugglers, story-tellers, magicians, clowns, and other assorted artists.
She is also, she said, the only girl in a group of people called "The Balloon Brothers."
"I'm the only girl in it because I'm the only girl that can keep up with them," she said.
The seeds to her career were planted when she was 12 and read a book on how to make simple characters with balloons.
Today she can make over 1,000 different creations and continues to expand her list of characters.
"I just think of things," she said. "Sometimes someone will ask me to make something and I don't know how."
Rather than attempt something she doesn't know how to make, Clauder said she will go back to her room at night and practice until she has it perfected.
Her favorite creation is a baby road runner a small version of a character that last year won her the Texas Balloon Championship.
She created a four-foot tall Wiley Coyotey chasing a four-foot tall road runner. The road runner had a noose around Wiley Coyotey's neck dragging him across the ground, she said.
So why does Clauder spend time in the summer traveling to fairs?
"I call it a paid vacation," she said, adding that between fairs she, and her children, get the chance to travel, sight-see, and just have fun.
"It brings the family closer together," she said.
Clauder noted that she doesn't come from a family of entertainers and got into the business because she "was just always a ham."
She also said she enjoys getting to know and talking to the people she meets and she enjoys making them smile.
Making people smile is what she did Friday morning when she paid a special visit to Northern Montana Hospital and to Northern Montana Care Center to visit those people that couldn't come to the fair. She also visited Eagles Manor.
"These are the nicest people," she said. "I really enjoy bringing a few smiles to their faces."
Clauder was sponsored at the Great Northern Fair by the Havre Sears. Having the sponsor allowed her to give away her creations instead of having to sell them.
"I want to say thank you to them," she said.