When the owners of Helium Highs decided to retire, the fate of their costume characters, including the iconic Pink Gorilla (which was also a mural on their building for many years) was up in the air. Wynona Fullum, a long-time employee at the party supplies store, decided to take the Pink Gorilla and a “handfull” of other characters to start her own little business.
A Handfull of Characters was born in 2017. “Thunder Bay still needs the Pink Gorilla in their lives,” Fullum says. She had been working at Helium Highs for almost 20 years, and spent a lot of time wearing the Pink Gorilla costume, going to birthday parties, retirement parties, schools, the hospital and retirement homes. Fullum figures she has been wearing the Pink Gorilla for a total of almost a quarter of a century.
“It was always the most popular character, the one most often requested. It was on the building, and on the van [of Helium Highs],” she explains. She has more than a dozen costumes for other characters such as a puppy, a baboon, a beaver, King Kong and Scarilyn (a spoof on Marilyn Monroe.) “The Grim Reaper is popular with the older population,” she chuckles.
Customers find her because the Pink Gorilla has become a familiar sight around town over the decades. She named her company a “Handfull” of Characters with two Ls to match her last name, Fullum, but says occasionally people have trouble finding her on the internet because of the spelling.
Since the pandemic started, business has slowed down. She still does some birthdays and special occasions in people’s driveways or front yards, wearing a face mask under the costume, but she misses interacting with people; all the joking and the banter. She has also tried incorporating local products into her visits, bringing food gifts from local businesses.
“I’d love to be able to go back to the hospital and old people’s homes and cheer people up,” she says wistfully.