The Higgins Balloon Factory was awarded the contract for decorating the avenue from the railroad station to the Explorers Club. What did they have to do to complete the job? 

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Twenty-One Balloons is one of my favorite books, and I love picturing the scene in which the Higgons Balloon Factory is foiled in its efforts to complete its contract.

This factory, which was chosen to honor Professor Sherman because it had made his balloon, is supposed to provide for a thousand small balloons to decorate this stretch of road, the road Professor Sherman will travel on as he leaves the railroad station and proceeds to the Explorers Club, to reveal the story of his astounding journey.  The factory makes these balloons in record time and they are attached at various points along the avenue in anticipation of Professor Sherman's arrival. 

Because these balloons are filled with helium and have a pulling weight of approximately sixty pounds, when one young boy decides to play with one, he finds he is able fly a bit with a running jump. When his little brother, who weighed more less than sixty pounds decides to try this, too, he flies a bit more than he expected and manages to stop himself from going any higher only by wrapping his legs around a church steeple, and the fire department has to rescue him.  While all of this is happening, more of the Higgins small balloons are being destroyed as sparks from chimneys along the route fall on them, causing them to explode.  The poor fire department has its hands full. It has to station firefighters along the entire route to safeguard against fires and mischievous little boys.

The city has balloon fever, in anticipation of Professor Sherman's arrival, and much of this chapter has vivid and humorous events about the balloons that literally arise in the story.