By Sarah Grabski Erie Times-News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Aubrey Blazer's company called "Pony Parties" allows customers to rent animals for private events and bring them to a location, including birthday parties, festivals, group outings, even photoshoots.
Aubrey Balzer was 14 when she was faced with a tough decision that would shape her future.
Her mother, Melissa Balzer, gave her an ultimatum that neither of them liked: If she wanted to keep the animals she'd slowly been collecting, she'd have to figure out a way to pay for them.
Melissa Balzer and her husband were going through a divorce and she knew she couldn't afford to provide the training and care her daughter's animals deserved.
"I was overwhelmed thinking about food bills, paying for their equipment, their care," said Aubrey Balzer, now 19, of North East. "I thought, 'How am I going to do this?'"
She came up with an idea that not only allowed her to keep her beloved animals but created a lucrative and popular business.
She wanted to share her passion and love of her animals with others, so she formed Pony Parties. The business allows customers to rent her animals for private events and bring them to a location, including birthday parties, festivals, group outings, photoshoots and more.
And she certainly has the right tools for the business. She owns eight rabbits, seven horses, five cats, two dogs, six goats, two ducks, a pig, three turtles, two lizards and more fish than she cares to discuss.
"I wanted originally to do something with the horses because they're so popular," she said. "I honestly didn't think it was going to be that big at all."
She missed her bet on that one.
She booked a few parties that first summer. By 2018, the business had grown substantially with 73 bookings on her calendar.
This year has been even busier, with at least one party booked every weekend.
"It's really grown," Aubrey Balzer said. "I think word of mouth is my best friend. It seems like everywhere I go, someone else is interested in booking me for one of their events."
The business offers different rental options that include ponies and petting zoos. She also decorates some of her ponies to look like unicorns for birthday parties. In addition, she offers beginner pony lessons for kids at the barn that she and her mother rent in North East. She'll also be offering pony rides at Pumpkintown in Busti, N.Y., Sept. 21 to 22, Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and 6, Oct. 12 to 14, Oct. 18 to 20 and Oct. 26 and 27.
"This is just typical of her. She just does what she wants to get what she wants," said Melissa Balzer, who has assisted her daughter in creating the business. "She's responsible and caring. I couldn't tell her no."
To rent one pony for a party for an hour is $100; each additional pony is $20 per horse per hour. A mini petting zoo is $100 for an hour and a full petting zoo is $175 for one hour. Pricing varies for festivals, school events and family gatherings depending on duration and location.
Aubrey Balzer has been an animal aficionado for as long as she can remember.
There's nothing to suggest it's an inherited trait.
"Not a single person in my family owns or has animals," Aubrey Balzer said. "I begged for a horse for forever and I still have him today. He's 25 and going blind but I love him so much."
She is studying to be a veterinarian at Edinboro University and also works part-time at Presque Isle Downs & Casino with racehorses and at Peek n' Peak Resort in the winter.
Aubrey Balzer's mother isn't the only one who helps with the business. Her boyfriend, Kyle DiLuzio, also lends a hand.
"Our weekends are just consumed with this," she said. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."
___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.