Sometimes Andrew Camarato is called “The Bouncy Guy.” Even though it’s not a nickname that reflects Camarato’s background as an information technology professional who used to manage computer networks, it’s a moniker that he really does not mind, especially when the name comes from the mouth of youngsters.
“I really don’t mind it. I’ve gotten used to it and I smile and say, ‘That’s right. I brought the bounce castle to your backyard. Now, go tell your mom you want me at next year’s party, too.’”
With that, Camarato is “The Bouncy Guy,” and the mission of the former computer professional is to supply bounce castles, obstacle courses, inflatable slides and other temporary outdoor entertainment structures to corporate events, community festivals, family reunions and backyard birthday parties. It’s something he’s been doing for nearly 16 years and has become a full-time role. Comarato, who is originally from Southern Illinois, says it all began with a birthday party for one of his own children.
“I went to college in Dallas, got married down there and had a couple of children,” he explains. “Every party you go to in Texas has a bounce house. When my kids were pre-school aged, we moved back here. We were getting ready to have a party and we couldn’t find a bounce house.”
Camarato says he realized at the time he might have discovered a business opportunity. His father happened to be in Las Vegas during a convention of amusement operators. He went in uninvited and made some contacts. Soon, there were three commercial bounce houses in Camarato’s garage.
“A business was born,” he says.
That business, Inflatable Fun, outgrew the garage long ago and now works out of a warehouse in Herrin. From three bounce houses, the company has grown to nearly 90 inflatables and other party standards, including snow cone machines and dunk tanks. The company employs as many as 10 staff members during the busy summer months who deliver, set up and supervise the inflatables during private parties.
“It’s long, hard, physical work,” he explains. “There is so much physical labor of lifting and unrolling and rolling dollies in an out of the warehouse, on and off the trailer. It’s a physically demanding job.”
Inflatable Fun offers traditional bounce houses, obstacle courses and slides, as well as carnival-style games and temporary tattoo artists.
Camarato says he has been surprised at how resistant the business has been to fluctuations in the economy.
“People will tighten their belts when their budgets are affected and they’ll spend less at the grocery store, but they still will go all-out for their kids’ birthday parties,” he says.
He adds, however, while the economy does not necessarily impact business, the weather does.
“Weather affects us more than the economy,” he explains. “Safety is our primary concern. Even if we have a day with a dozen customers, if the winds are blowing 30 mph, we’ll call those customers to cancel and refund any deposit they have paid.”
He says weather during the summer months is usually good, although some periods, such as August 2018, are frustrating because all of the weekends are rainy.
“If we’re going to get rain, I’d rather it be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, leaving Saturdays and Sundays clear,” he adds with a grin.
Camarato adds that Inflatable Fun is required by the state to be licensed and is subject to state inspections. He says the state also requires extensive insurance coverage.
For him, it’s all about having fun.
“I’ve done this job so long, I’ve watched kids grow up,” he says. “I’ve done their birthday parties when they are in kindergarten and later on their high school graduation parties. I’m having fun and the thing is, when we show up, everyone is happy.”