view counter

The Balloon Man of Annapolis

That’s Charles Baker, streetside entertainer

On the corner of Ego Alley and City Dock at weekends when the weather is at its best, The Balloon Man pumps and twists latex into masterpieces to tickle kids and tease the stiffness out of adults.
    On an average sunny Saturday, Charles Baker makes up to 100 balloons from Elmos to penguins, flowers to swords.
    “My grandson thinks he is grandpa,” says a customer. “I am sure it’s the grey hair.” The grandson brandishes an inflated miniature sword just made for him by Baker.
    Baker is indeed a grandfather, with a first grandchild, Knox, born just six months ago. But not to the people who know him as The Balloon Man of Annapolis. A live-aboard on his sailboat, My Girl, Baker retired to Annapolis City Dock Marina three years ago.
    “I had just retired and didn’t know what to do with myself,” he tells me. “So I started browsing the internet and came across a video demonstrating how to create balloon art. And here I am.”
    Baker was a catering chef. But his vocation is entertainment. Originally from Easton, Baker studied at The Lawrenceville School at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He has also narrated 40 audio books and performs one-man shows as an evangelical actor.
    “The balloon making is pure pleasure,” he says. “The other two jobs keep the sails secure on my boat and keep me afloat.”
    “How much do you charge?” asks a keen parent.
    “It’s for tips,” he replies, “with a recommended minimum of $3 and a maximum of $150,000.”
    “A maximum?” protests the prospective client. “Would you not accept more?”
    “No, I would feel guilty.”
    At the sound of the honking horn of the trolley bus, Baker turns to return the driver’s salute.
    “I have never met that man,” Baker explains, “but he stops every time he comes around, honks his horn and we salute.”