A Houston-based inflatables company is proving once again that things really do grow bigger in Texas. 

A giant inflatable heart will be one of the main attractions at the 31st annual Vital Signs Health Fair this weekend on the Adams County Fairgrounds. The fair, sponsored by South Heartland District Health Department, Mary Lanning Healthcare, Central Community College and Good Samaritan Village, runs 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and Sunday.

Measuring 15 feet in height, 20 feet long, and 15-20 feet wide, the enormous inflatable heart on display during the fair will educate people on how the heart works and how best to keep it beating healthy. 

Wayne Martin of Medical Inflatables will lead tours through the heart during its weekend stay in Hastings. 

The company has three hearts on tour across the Northeast and Central portions of the country, and finds they are in especially high demand during American Health Month in February. The company has four different inflatables available year-round. 

“It’s really cool,” Martin said. “If you take time to read all the signs on the heart, it really tells you a lot about each component. I hope people will take the time to study it and read it so they really get a lot of knowledge and can change their bad habits, (especially) if they’re older and thinking about their health.”

Event coordinator Karen Doerr said she expects the heart to be an important tool in educating the hundreds of people likely to participate in this year’s  health fair. She said health fair organizers discovered the inflatables company online and thought the heart would be the perfect visual aid to get traffic flowing into the fairgrounds.

“We saw this and thought it would be a great addition to our health fair this year,” she said. “We’re always looking for something new to educate the public, and heart disease is of those things that we’re able to largely control by our diet and exercise. What better way to help educate people than to let them walk through something like this? 

“We’re pretty excited to have it. We’re hoping people will come and walk through it and learn a little bit about heart health, heart disease, and how they can keep their heart healthy.”

With low-cost blood screenings and dozens of health-related organizations represented, the health fair has become a popular draw through the years, attracting visitors from across Nebraska and beyond with its educational opportunities.

Doerr said organizers do not mean for the health fair to be an end-all in and of itself, and she hopes those who participate will see it as an important first step toward educating themselves on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“We don’t want to be a substitute for a physician visit,” Doerr said. “What we want this to be is a starting point for people to then go to their physician and have that discussion about how they can live a healthier life.”

Lori VanBoening, president of the health fair board, said she hopes the Whoopers & Hoopers Tournament and Palm Sunday activities at local churches will not hinder attendance at this year’s fair. Any extra effort required to attend this year’s fair will be rewarded with numerous educational opportunities too important to miss, she said.

“We hope people will come out and be proactive about their health,” she said. “It’s much better to be proactive than reactive. Don’t wait until you’re really sick to go see your doctor.

“In addition to the blood draw, there’s bone density testing, vision, hearing, BMI testing, all which really give you a better picture of what your health problems could be. That’s why we’re here.”