Best Kids' Thrill Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2003 - Twisty the Clown (Gary Cardonick)
Readers' Choice: Blockbuster IMAX Theater
This guy is a smorgasbord of tot-inspired talent. For a fee, he offers sno-cones, cotton candy, face-painting, and that nemesis of paranoid parents, a bounce house. To calm adults' jittery nerves, he sometimes even makes frozen margaritas -- though he generally avoids such fare at kiddie shindigs. Gary Cardonick's specialty is balloons. The 36-year-old Coral Springs dweller, who boasts an associate's degree in business, can make motorcycles, Bugs Bunny, even a working Ferris wheel by mangling a little rubber-cum-air. He got his start a decade ago at the Baja Beach Club in Fort Lauderdale, where he did just about everything you can imagine to make a buck. He even recalls selling his clown shoes for $200 to a rich guy who was trying to impress his date. ("I went home in stocking feet," he comments.) He started face-painting four or five years ago, added the bounce house in 1999 after a stock tip paid off (we love a clown who plays the market), then added the food in the past couple of years. Twisty don't come cheap: His full-service birthday costs $350. You might consider starting a preschool if you really want him over. That's only $150 a shot. "Good advertising there," Cardonick says.