Coachella installation in its 10th year at the festival

While some Coachella goers may have their heads in the clouds, Brandon Kuhens keeps his feet firmly planted on the ground at one end of a 1,500-foot string of 120 balloons.

For the past decade, Kuhens has worked for Balloon Chain, one of many art installations at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The chain has become a festival staple since its debut at Coachella in 2009, stretching hundreds of feet into the air and adding color to the festival skyline. This year, the chain is blue and yellow, in honor of Ukraine.

But someone has to stop all those balloons from flying – and it’s a two-man job. At each end of the chain, a steel cable is anchored to a person near their waist (they use a steel cable in case a rowdy festival-goer tries to cut the balloon chain with scissors). This person also holds the end of the string aloft and hands it to eager festival-goers who grab the end of the string for a few seconds to snap an Instagram-worthy photo.

At night, lights are added to the chain, which gives the desert a beautiful glow and is also compliant with Federal Aviation Administration rules.

In the morning, they release the cable and start adding balloons, spaced 12 feet apart, inflating them one by one. One person holds the end of the line and begins to cross the festival grounds as balloons are added to the line. Throughout the day, when a balloon pops, they wrap the line to replace the single popped balloon.

Holding it all day, however, is hard work – ball carriers go out every two hours to regain arm strength.

“You get used to it after a few hours,” Kuhens said.

Ball carriers should be mindful of wind conditions, potential hazards like trees or power lines, and not hit people with the cable or the balls.

the "Balloon Chain" at the Coachella Arts and Music Festival on April 15, 2022

Robert Bose came up with the idea for the string of balloons at Burning Man in 2006. To avoid getting lost, Bose and a friend tied strings of five or six balloons to the back of their bikes. Seeing the balloons floating straight through the air sparked an idea.

“I thought, ‘How far could I go?'” Bose said.

That night he started adding balloons to the chain and kept adding more until he reached around 100 balloons and the rest is history. Balloon Chain first appeared at Coachella in 2009.

Benjamin Cerf, another 10-year Balloon Chain veteran, said he was continuing because “it adds an extra level to the sightlines of the festival, you play with the wind and it makes people happy with the balloons”.

If you’re lining up for a ride while holding the ball chain, keep a few rules in mind:

“Keep it as high as possible so people don’t bump into it. And don’t drop it. It would be ideal if you held it with two hands,” Kuhens said.

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at ema.sasic@desertsun.com or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

Erin Rode covers the environment for the Desert Sun. Reach her at erin.rode@desertsun.com or on Twitter at @RodeErin.