The Big Baller, seen here at PYAC’s Carnival last year, is a popular attraction. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

For the past 20 years, Philomath resident Rick Bennett’s life has revolved around fun. Through the business that he runs with wife Danielle, many children in the region have bounced around on and inside of their inflatables at birthday parties, school events or the local carnival.

Those opportunities to bounce typically take place during the warmer, outside activity months. So, Bennett started thinking and an idea to create an indoor event that features the inflatables took hold.

“Oregon’s Largest Indoor Bounce Park” arrives this Saturday at the Benton County Fairgrounds.

“We know it’s the largest ever in the state of Oregon — an indoor bounce park for one day,” Bennett said. “We’re setting up 12 or 13 big inflatables and we have some small stuff for the little kids that are toddlers.”

The inflatables will fill Benton Arena for six hours of fun on Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We were looking to do something indoors during the winter months,” Bennett said. “We do a lot of festivals and events in the spring and summer outdoors, so we felt like we wanted to try our first indoor facility.”

Wacky Indoor Bounce’s home base in Corvallis is not large enough to unfurl the biggest inflatables with a 13-foot high ceiling.

“We have stuff that we’re going to set up that’s like 25 to 30 feet tall,” Bennett said. “So we thought we would need a bigger space with higher ceilings and enough square footage and the fairgrounds is really the only spot in the state unless we wanted to do it at some high school, but we knew that was probably not an option, so we went with the fairgrounds.”

Artwork provided by Rick Bennett

Tickets into the event are $20 if purchased in advance or $25 at the gate (cash only, ATMs are on site) for unlimited use. Gellyball has a cost of $5 per game.

“There’s going to be a food truck out there — Cheesy Stuffed Burgers is coming and they’ll have a menu of burgers, mini corn dogs, chicken nuggets, fries and a snack bar with chips, candy, beverages — water, pop, Gatorade.”

Supervising each inflatable will be staff volunteers.

“I’m super excited that they’re all high school kids, most of them from Philomath High School,” Bennett said. “They’ll all be dressed in referee shirts to serve the kids and take care of the kids.”

Philomath residents have likely seen the inflatables in town over the past several years as part of the annual Philomath Youth Activities Club Carnival.

“It was my idea years ago with Eddie (Van Vlack, PYAC’s executive director) to donate inflatables to PYAC for this carnival event and it’s been super popular for that,” Bennett said. “The inflatables are the big draw and it’s what brings people out because the kids love it.”

The big inflatables will definitely be the star attraction on Saturday — and a half-dozen or so of them will be open to adults (weight limit of 200 pounds). The most popular is what’s known as the “Big Baller” — an obstacle course that features four huge red balls surrounded by a pit that’s intended to represent a moat. S&K has set it up at past PYAC carnivals.

“Oregon’s Largest Indoor Bounce Park” will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Benton County Fairgrounds. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“The kids are looking for something fun to do and the cool thing about the inflatables, we’re bringing in about six or seven where adults can play with their own children,” Bennett said. “So we’re pretty excited about that.”

Based on ticket sales, Bennett said it appears that several adults are indeed planning to bounce around with their kids.

Beyond the inflatables, the event will also feature Gellyball, a newer game that uses blasters that shoot small water-based gel orbs — similar to paintball or airsoft games but with lighter impact and no mess. Gellyball is played in an arena that includes bunkers to hide behind.

Bennett said the game has been around for about a year now and has become very popular.

“It’s one of our top rentals,” Bennett said. “We did it for an event at Alyrica last summer and they absolutely loved it, went crazy with it. It’s for all different ages, no weight limit, so anybody can do it.”

Besides the use of blasters and to cover the cost of the water orbs, the $5 per game admission also includes helmets for the participants.

S&K Inflatables, which operates Wacky Indoor Bounce as one part of the business and rents inflatables for special events as another part of the operation, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. 

“The concept with this one was just really trying to do something bigger, more exciting and maybe introduce people to Wacky Bounce more, maybe introduce people to our outdoor rental business,” Bennett said about the event. “We own over 150 inflatables, so we’re constantly running. We took multiple phone calls today from schools that are trying to do end-of-the-year school stuff; we’re doing Philomath High School’s Senior All-Night Party — so we’re doing a lot of things like that.”

Bennett had kind words for the Benton County Fairgrounds.

“They’ve treated us really well and given us the opportunity to do it there,” Bennett said. “And you know, maybe we have an ongoing relationship with the fairgrounds where maybe we do two or three events a year at the fairgrounds.”

This event coming up on Saturday will be the first test for Bennett’s wintertime idea.

Said Bennett, “We’re just having some fun out there and trying something that’s never been tried before.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.