Into the woods

Balloon trees transform PYT space into magical refuge as thousands arrive for youth gathering

July 16, 2013

Balloon trees transform the PYT exhibit hall into a treehouse.

Balloon trees transform the PYT exhibit hall into a treehouse. —Jerry L. Van Marter

PURDUE, Ind.

It’s certainly not your Presbyterian grandmother’s exhibit hall.

The fairly commonplace hall where a variety of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) programs, services and wares are on display for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium (PYT) has been transformed into a magical forest of balloon trees.

What has always been an “exhibit hall” is thus the “PYT Treehouse.”

“There are about 9,000 balloons in all,” Gina Yeager, associate for youth ministry and PYT’s head honcho, told Presbyterian News Service today (July 16) as the five day event prepared to kick off. “The Treehouse took two days to make, Yeager added, “and was the biggest project our balloon company ever undertook.”

The look is spectacular.

Under a canopy of 20-foot balloon trees ― varying shades of green for the “leaves” and black and brown for the trunks ― oversized bean bag chairs are scattered about to give PYT participants plenty of places to sit and ponder.

“We want to give people the sense of being among the trees, to sit or lie down and gaze into the trees,” Yeager said, “and imagine the mission and ministry in which they want to be engaged.”

The balloon forest promises to be crowded this week. More than 5,200 participants have registered. “We budgeted for 4,200 so we’re really happy with the response,” Yeager said, adding that the overall response from presbyteries has been the best since trienniums started in 1981.

In addition to the high-school age youth for whom PYT is designed, the gathering will include 200 adult small-group leaders, more than 635 adult advisors, more than 50 global partners from PC(USA)-related churches around the world and a “community life team” of more than 65 adults who will provide chaplaincy services and residence hall supervision.

“It really is a village we’ve created for this week,” Yeager said. “It takes a lot to keep a village safe, healthy and happy.”

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