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Fit to be tied: Local man uses balloon artistry as creative outlet

Posted: January 14, 2014 3:14 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2014 3:14 p.m.

Jennifer Lee, 9, left, of Valencia reacts as she gets a set of balloon reindeer antlers created by Dr. Popper Ph.D., also known as Keith A. Oberg, right, as he entertains at a Winter Festival event held at the Hyatt Regency Valencia in December. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

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By his own admission, local resident Keith A. Oberg is a “goofy creator.”

At his job he is, in many ways, an inventor, drawing from his schooling for his job at the Alfred Mann Foundation.

But every once in a while, he needs a creative outlet.

It’s then that he dons his trusty hat and vest and becomes “Dr. Popper, Ph.D.” — his balloon artist alter ego.

“I had no intention of making balloon animals,” Oberg said during an interview last week. “But I ended up doing it.”


Oberg said he began as a balloon artist partly by circumstance, when about eight years ago he was charged with managing entertainment for children at a church picnic.

So he decided to bring along some balloons.

With some prompting from the kids, he began tying some simpler balloon creations, including a dog and a flower.

“The kids had a ton of fun,” he recalled.

But he was later presented with a challenge: how to make a butterfly.

“So I looked it up and learned how to make a butterfly,” he said.

He later decided to engage in more balloon creativity at the preschool his children attended at the time, where again he was barraged by requests that stretched his then-limited knowledge.

“I figured, ‘Well, I’ve got to learn how to do this,’” Oberg said.

From there his interest in balloon artistry grew along with his abilities.

Now Oberg, a proud father of two, said he knows about 150 different balloon designs ranging from simple swords to complicated multi-balloon creations, including a spider complete with eyes and fangs.

Dr. Popper
As he got more interested in his hobby, he decided to create an alter ego for his performances.

He gathered a costume consisting of a bowler hat, a vest and a pair of glasses he picked up because “it went with the look.”

As for the name. Oberg said the “Dr. Popper” moniker was actually thought up by his wife.

Being a balloon artist, the “popper” part is self-explanatory. Since Oberg also has a Ph.D., the “doctor” portion also fit in nicely.

Armed with the look and the name, as well as pockets full of balloons, Oberg began performing around Santa Clarita as Dr. Popper, delighting children at a variety of events.

“Every time I do it, it just makes me want to giggle because of the expression on the kids’ faces,” said the Santa Clarita resident since 2000.

While balloon-tying may be his outlet, it is not the only time he is creative.

“I’m a creator,” Oberg said. “I’m one of those people who makes stuff.”

That serves him well in his full-time job, where he works as a manager of pharmaceutics at the Alfred Mann Foundation.

That professional experience and visual thinking, in turn, serve him well in both the professional and the personal realms and are invaluable when it comes to figuring out new balloon designs.

What began by circumstance and continued as a creative outlet has since become a passion for Oberg.

“People seem to think it fits because I’m a goofy guy,” he said. “I’m a goofy creator.”

Even though his job limits the amount of shows he can do every year — to the point where he says he has to spend a week or so getting his fingers back in balloon-tying shape before every event — Oberg said he hopes to expand his role as Dr. Popper in the future.

“I think that when I retire I will go back to this, get a booth and just make balloons for the kids,” Oberg said with a smile. “That would be great.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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