Jacquie Sopko, the owner of Balloon Crew in Garfield Heights, couldn’t wait for the Republican National Convention to end. Not that she had any problem with the event. Instead, her company played a major role in the grand finale of the RNC. Anaheim, Calif.-based Treb Heining, the “guru of balloons since the 1970s,” according to Sopko, hired Balloon Crew to assist him with the show-ending balloon drop. “Our team was thrilled. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for us and for Cleveland, and we were going to be a part of it,” Sopko says. Balloon Crew was asked to be the contact for all local happenings in addition to being assigned the task of selecting the high school that would receive the honorarium for helping inflate more than 100,000 balloons. “That was the easiest part, as we picked Garfield Heights High School in our home town,” Sopko says. The music department was selected at the request of Heining, who as a band kid himself, said they are the smartest students. Between March and July, the time of the actual balloon drop, Balloon Crew connected with teachers to set up meeting dates, obtained student and parent volunteer names, and secured t-shirt sizes. ”Imagine trying to get t-shirt sizes from over 100 teenagers,” Sopko says. “In addition, we communicated Treb’s requests to the school, warehoused some balloons, and coordinated the day-of transportation for our crew and the students via company vehicles and school buses.” On July 15 Balloon Crew and the students arrived at Quicken Loans Arena at 7:30 a.m. “ready to rock and roll,” Sopko says. “Media were everywhere in the Q taking photos and asking questions. It was tough to inflate and be filmed simultaneously, but it took us only five hours to inflate all the balloons — in record time, I heard — and it was an experience of a lifetime for all of us.” Balloon Crew also worked the Cavaliers’ first ring ceremony in December. “We had never done anything for the Cavs before. We all had to pinch ourselves as we rode up in the elevator to the fourth floor of Quicken Loans Arena with 11 bags of balloon bouquets and two columns on a four-wheel dolly. It was so exciting,” Sopko says. Balloon Crew welcomed several new clients besides the Cavs and RNC, including Crop Bistro, Great Lakes Hyundai, and Al Spitzer Ford.
Runners-up: Baskets Galore; EmbroidMe-North Olmsted; Gino’s Awards; Pink Gorilla Balloons and Events.
2016 — Balloon Crew, Inc.
2015 — Baskets Galore
2014 — Baskets Galore (gift), Gino’s Awards (awards)
2013 — Baskets Galore (gift), Streets of Manhattan (awards)
2012 — The Gifted Basket (gift), Gino’s Awards (awards)
2011 — Gino’s Awards (gift), (No awards award)
2010 — Gino’s Awards (gift), (No awards award)
2009 — Team Promotions (gift), Gino’s Awards (awards)
2008 — (No gift award), Gino’s Awards (awards)
2007 — Streets of Manhattan (gift), (No awards award)