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Taking Balloon Art to the Distance



“Please tell me more about yourself…”

“I’m a pug owner who fell in love with balloons over a decade ago, and I constantly marvel at how being a balloon artist has opened my world up to friendships and creative opportunities around the world.”

Meet Kristal Yee – business owner, pug-lover, award-winning face painter and balloon artist, and proud Surrey citizen. She grew up here having attended Green Timbers Elementary and then Enver Creek Secondary, and is a Surrey homeowner. And now, she has been paramount in putting Surrey on the map, due to her reputation of creativity and professionalism in her respective field.

But how does one get involved in the wild world of balloon art and face painting? “I trained in theatre way back in the day, and one summer [during my twenties], an acting colleague of mine asked if I wanted a job working with kids (they were short staffed that weekend).

I didn’t have any shows or anything going on at that time, so i figured, why not! I ended up painting my first face paint design, and twisting my first one-balloon creations…and things went from here!” And what was that first balloon Yee created? “I believe, either a classic one balloon dog, or a one balloon sword.” Yee completed the Douglas College theatre program, and did a few semesters at Studio 58, along with training with David MacMurray Smith (a local performer and educator). There are some key takeaways from her learnings that Yee still takes into account on a daily basis…. “being present in the moment as much as possible, remembering that when I’m saying things, some people are hearing the story for the first time, and breathing from my diaphragm.”

It’s one thing to help a friend out with an event one time, another to make something into a full-time career. But Yee did just that. “For a long time, I would take weekend bookings, and go to auditions during the week (for acting). At some point, I started thinking to myself that auditions were taking up the time that I could be putting towards events!

That was around the time I started transitioning (into a full-time career of this).” “[My family and friends] thought it was great! Everyone was very supportive. I found out that some of my colleagues weren’t as fortunate when telling their families about their chosen career – so I consider myself very lucky to have everyone behind me.”

Yee has come a long way since the initial balloon dog and sword. Now with her business, she is booked nearly all year, well in advance, and has broadened her portfolio to making balloon art as complex as balloon dresses! “Most of my work is face painting and/or balloons in a party/line work setting. I also create what I call Balloon Candy Cups – essentially, the balloon version of a goody bag!

I have also been doing more decor/large pieces, though I do more of a deco-twisting style, rather than classic decor.” She covers anything from birthdays to grand openings, wedding receptions to baby showers, and even some trade shows and large international builds – being a part of a Guinness World Record! “All of the events I have coming up are special ones.”

“One of the coolest things about my chosen career, is that it lets me travel! I have twisted balloon creations in Italy, China, across the United States, and just this past summer my colleagues and I travelled to Australia to create an Enchanted Garden out of balloons, complete with balloon dresses for the bride and bridesmaids, for a balloon artist wedding!”

And what’s one of the coolest international events she has participated in thus far? Representing Team Canada at the World Balloon Convention (WBC), which took place in San Diego in March 2018. “A number of years back I’d been thinking about how Canada was never represented. The few Canadians that did attend, usually ended up helping our American friends, as no one had put together a Canadian team.”

After realizing that there was no Canadian representation at Worlds, “I mentioned to some fellow Canadians that I’d been playing with the idea of competing there. At a convention in 2015, I believe, someone came up to me, introduced himself and said he’d heard that I was going to start a Canadian team. So I looked across to another Canadian I’d been talking to, and asked if he was interested – and it went from there!

I had an idea of each potential member’s skills, and each of the 4 original members I asked have all been assets to the team. We started with 5 members because our first compress in the Medium category – that could have a maximum of 5 people!” “I ended up being a founding member of Canada’s Twisted Team (originally Canada’s Twisted Five).”

In the 2018 WBC, competitors were allowed to use Disney characters for the first time, and naturally, Team Canada decided to design a piece called the “Sorcerer’s Serenade.” In this design, sorcerer Mickey was included wooing Princess Minnie while accompanied by an enchanted broom band. The team had 27 hours to complete their design with no allowances for preparations ahead of time. Within the 27 hours they were required to cut, shape, and present their entire display. The Pioneer Balloon Company chose judges (from within the industry) for each competition based on their area of expertise, and after tough competition and judging criterias, Team Canada received a Bronze Achievement Award!

The next WBC will be held in 2021, and Team Canada is unsure if they will attend to continue their winning streak, but nonetheless, this previous event has brought a spotlight to Canadian balloon artists on an international stage through Canada’s Twisted Team – which was the team’s principal goal. “At this point, we do still have plans for future projects, though whether that includes full team competitions or not is up in the air!

Yee is proud of the Surrey arts scene and expresses her pride in hearing about local concerts and performances happening at the Surrey Arts Centre and other local theatres.

Like any art form, the community embraces newcomers. Yee explains that there is an infinite number of resources available online for those wanting to learn more, and there are also a couple of monthly “balloon jams” that local balloon-twisting community hosts where you can practice and learn more from the pros.

For instance, upcoming jam information can often be found on the Raincoats Clown Troupe page on Facebook.

Want to keep in the loop with what Kristal Yee is up to or learn more about the wonderful world of balloon art and face art? Check out her website and social media!

Robyn is a status-quo disruptor, an old-soul, and has a serious passion towards continuous learning driven by a curiosity for the unknown. A creative and equally analytical thinker with experience in leadership, project management and marketing strategy. When she’s not working you can find her in the kitchen, searching for new music, or meandering local thrift stores, antique stores, or flea markets for a unique find.

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Uber expands ridesharing service to Abbotsford, Aldergrove and Langley Township



Uber is expanding its ridesharing service to Abbotsford, Aldergrove and all of Langley Township. Residents across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley now have expanded access to a safe, reliable and affordable transportation alternative at the touch of a button, and drivers will have additional flexible earning opportunities.

Uber has implemented new safety features and policies to keep riders and drivers safe as we navigate this new normal together including:

  • Go Online Checklist: Riders and drivers will confirm safety precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19 including a selfie confirmation to ensure drivers are wearing a face mask or cover
  • Driver Screening: Everyone who drives with Uber is screened before their first trip. In addition, Uber reruns these driver screenings every year and uses technology to look for issues in between.
  • 24/7 Safety Support: If you need safety support or assistance, Uber’s dedicated and trained support team is available at all times to provide help
  • Phone Anonymization: Privacy is a top priority at Uber. The Uber app conceals driver and rider phone numbers so they are able to securely call/text each other through the app without revealing their information
  • Emergency Button Access: Both riders and drivers can contact 911 directly from the Uber app and provide a GPS location and trip details with authorities in emergency situations

In addition to these new features and policies, Uber is distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help keep delivery people and drivers safe as they serve their communities. We are sending in-app notifications to active drivers and delivery people in each city – providing guidance on how to request health and safety supplies (screencap below).

Drivers and delivery people can request those supplies and have them shipped directly to their home. So far, more than 55,000 PPE supplies have been distributed in the Lower Mainland.

To see the updated service area map, please visit here.

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How BC Resorts and Hotels are Reopening for Phase Three COVID-19 Restrictions



BC premier, John Horgan announced the plan for the province to move to phase three of reopening. This phase includes the reopening of hotels, motels, cabins, RV resorts, etc. According to the BC government website, “The accommodation industry was not ordered to close by the Provincial Health Officer.

Many operators closed voluntarily and are now preparing to welcome guests in Phase 3.” Opus Vancouver plans to welcome back customers in August and released the safety changes that have been made to welcome guests back.

Opus Vancouver mentions that guests are required to stand six feet apart from guests who aren’t travelling with them in all areas of the hotel, they have also installed plexi glass screen at the front desks, and the hotel plans to “introduce a contactless check-in and keyless entry program over the coming months.”

As BC’s Centre for Disease Control advises handwashing and hand sanitizing when water is unavailable, OPUS Vancouver plans to provide guests, employees and visitors with hand sanitizer; as well as providing dispensers around the hotel. OPUS Vancouver has also released a detailed explanation in regards to the cleaning of the hotel amenities.

They mentioned limiting the number of guests in the fitness room to one and cleaning up after each guest is finished. The buffet eating will also be halted for the time being “and replaced [with] alternative service styles such as individually plated and served meals, to customized individual grab and go boxes.”

Other hotels in Surrey are assisting customers with their bookings and reservations. Like Sandman Suites Surrey-Guildford mentions their offering of full credits for future bookings until 2021 for all prepaid non-refundable reservations past July 1.

The Civic Hotel, Autograph Collection is also aiding new customer bookings by allowing “reservation to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before … scheduled arrival date.” This is for reservations “for any future arrival date” and … “reservations with prepaid rates.” According to their website, this is available till July 5.

BC’s phase three reopening also includes travelling within the province so for residents who are planning to visit one of BC’s many beautiful towns and cities, the government has some rules in place. Residents of British Columbia are asked “to be respectful of the communities [they] plan to visit and be safe as [they] enjoy the many beautiful locations across [the] province.”

Visitors from other provinces and territories are also asked to follow the same guidelines in place for British Columbians. The BC government website also includes a list of guidelines for people thinking about traveling this summer. The government asks that residents “consider the health and safety of people in [their] bubble, and whether [they] want to take any extra risks.”

Residents are also asked to follow the safety rules in place. That includes washing of hands, physical distancing, staying in small groups, and cleaning of space. Many RV parks are accepting guests and have put up rules in regards to covid-19. Livingstone RV Park in Langley announced the closing of its office to the public and appointments can be made by calling the number on their website.

They have also closed the showers and washroom to the guests and they ask that guests “have no outside visitors during [their] stay and that [they] maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet between [their] camping neighbors until the ban is lifted.”

Other RV parks like Pacific Border RV Park in Surrey, Burnaby Cariboo RV Park and Campground in Burnaby are also open for guests.

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Support Our Surrey (SOS): Team of Justin and Trace



I’ve seen so many members of our community helping each other out during COVID-19, that it makes my heart swell. I’m so happy to be giving another Support Our Surrey shout-out to longstanding members of our Fraser Valley community – the real estate team of Justin and Trace, from Macdonald Realty.

Justin Glasser and Trace Sowerby have been active realtors in the Fraser Valley for over 15 years. Maybe you’ve seen their friendly faces in the mail? As downtown Surrey began to grow and burgeon approximately 15 years ago, Justin and Trace have not only been growing with the city, but they’ve been growing with many of the young residents and families that call Surrey their home.

During COVID, they’ve used their marketing platform and resources to support and highlight other local businesses in the community, by hosting an Instagram series called QUARANTINE 15 – a “weekly segment updating our community on local business in 15 minutes or less”. You can follow Justin and Trace on Instagram at justin_traceteam to find these segments, as well as here.

Businesses they've featured are:

If you ever get the pleasure of meeting Justin, Trace, or their colleague, Bethany, you’ll know immediately that the care and respect they have for their community and fellow residents, runs deep. It’s their personal care, whether as their clients or someone living in the same community as them, that really make the Justin and Trace Team, shine and standout. Get to know them a bit on Facebook:

You can also learn more about the Justin and Trace Team on their official site, here, and be sure to check out the businesses they’ve highlighted so that we can all continue to keep this spirit of community going!

Dear readers: As BC begins to re-open, it’s a great opportunity for business to welcome us back – please reach out to share local businesses that are now open so we can feature them and make sure our community knows how we an Support Our Surrey.

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How Barbershops and Retailers are Welcoming Customers during BC’s Phase Two Re-opening



Giant Retailers, Hudson Bay and Sephora have opened their doors to customers in Surrey. While both companies spoke about their excitement to welcome back customers, they have also released information on the new store hours and how they plan to enforce safety guidelines and social distancing rules. Sephora released a post which detailed the changes they planned to make to their stores while ensuring the safety of their customers. The company plans to maintain the two metre distancing rule and limit the amount of customers in the store.

The company is also making sure hand sanitizers are made available “at the front entrance and key areas throughout the store” They also plan to “sanitize baskets before giving them to [customers], disinfect products and tools, and clean surfaces every two hours or after every use.”

As the beauty company is known for having testers made available, this will no longer be the case and the company also plans to take the temperature of their staff at the beginning of their shift and in the middle of their shift.

Hudson Bay, another retailer that has opened its doors to residents of Surrey has introduced a way for customers to receive their items in a safe way. The company has introduced curbside pickup. The company mentioned the pickups being ready in “as little as 3 hours”

This is made available everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and when customers arrive, they are asked to remain in their car while an associate helps them load the item. The customer can also “advise” the associate on where to place the item if they do not want it loaded in their car, according to the company. Some other new changes from the store is, allocating Tuesdays for senior shoppers and Thursdays for frontline workers.

Along with other retailers and businesses, Hudson Bay has introduced sanitizers around the stores, increased cleaning, physical distancing, and touchless pay. BC’s second phase of reopening doesn’t include only retail stores. Barbershops and salons are now open to the public with guidelines in place.

Lookin’ Sharp Barbershop is based in Richmond BC, and it recently opened doors to customers. Co owner and founder of the shop, Bebo, spoke about the safety guidelines in place as he and his staff welcome back customers.

“Right now we are not allowing [anyone] without a mask and [we also] have … guidelines and protocols before the client [enters the shop],” says Bebo.

Some of the new guidelines Bebo spoke of was having clients make appointments before their haircuts, as before the pandemic, the shop took walk-ins only.
“We removed all the chairs [in] the waiting area, so there’s no waiting inside the shop,” says Bebo.

“When [a] client comes, they need to wait outside until their scheduled appointment, and [we also] put … a hand sanitizer station [for clients],” says Bebo.

Bebo also mentioned his shop giving out masks to customers who come without one. He spoke about the safety guidelines for his staff, saying they had to wear masks and gloves, and disinfect their whole workstation before and after each client. Bebo also mentioned his shop terminating 80 per cent of their services.

“… Hair [wax], threading, face masks, and facials … are no longer available,” says Bebo. “Basically right now we are only providing the haircuts and hair wash,” he added.

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Uber Connect: Easier than ever to send packages to others



As we learn to live in the new normal, Uber wants to help you navigate through this new life and make your life a little bit easier. Uber is launching a new product, Uber Connect, to make it easier than ever to send packages, items, and goods to others.

Uber Connect allows users to send packages to others. It’s an affordable same-day contactless delivery solution.

Whether it’s a care package for a loved one, a gift for a friend’s birthday, an item you sold online or an important business document, you can send it by requesting “Uber Connect” through the Uber app. Now you can have the kids create a work of art for Grandma and get it over to her house before dinner.

Matthew Price, General Manager of Uber Canada, said Uber Connect was designed to make it easier for people to deliver things to others and stay connected.

“During this challenging time for Canadians we wanted to create an affordable and quick way for people to send items to each other. This feature minimises the need to travel, while helping people stay connected. We know Canadians want to help each other out and have seen a tremendous sense of community rise up in the recent weeks. By focusing on helping to safely move people and the delivery of items, we want to participate in the collective effort to tame the new normal”.

How it works:

Uber Connect is now available in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

  • Package the items in a sealed box or bag, wiping down surfaces with disinfectant.
  • Tell your driver ‘Where to?’ in your Uber app.
  • Choose Uber Connect as the ride (you may have to swipe up for the option).
  • Follow the notifications: You’ll get notifications providing instructions on how to help ensure a smooth pickup and when your driver is arriving, just like a trip with UberX. As you see the car approach in the app, you should head outside and load your item into the car’s trunk.
  • Share the trip status with up to 5 people in your contact list. Unless it’s a surprise gift, one of these should be the recipient so they can easily monitor the delivery’s progress.

Uber Connect is one way for Canadians to move what matters most. As part of Uber’s commitment to Moving What Matters in Canada, Uber has pledged over $6m in free rides, meals, and food deliveries for Canada – providing those to healthcare workers, seniors, and people in need.

Starting with organizations like Breakfast Club of Canada, AdvantAGE, CBI Health, BC Women’s and Children’s Hospitals, and Montreal’s Children’s Hospital, it’s our small way of helping during this challenging time.

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