Food Coloring, I like the gel kind but the liquid works just fine
Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining each with wax paper.
In an air popper machine, pop the popcorn kernels. Sift through and remove any unpopped kernels. Place popcorn in a very large bowl (or use two bowls or a clean empty sink).
In a large pot (5 quart), combine sugar, corn syrup, water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil for about 4-5 minutes until bubbles begin to become larger and fewer. It will still be thin. Or if you have a candy thermometer, cook until 235 degrees and then remove from heat and stir in vanilla and food coloring (dip a piece of popcorn in the caramel to test how the color will look on the popcorn and adjust as desired).
Pour over popcorn and then mix with a rubber spatula until all the popcorn is evenly coated.
Rub about a teaspoon of softened butter all over your hands ( I like to wear my rubber dish washing gloves and just rub butter on them) and form about 22 softball size balls (apply more butter as popcorn starts sticking to your hands). Pack gently/loosely so they aren't hard when you bite into them. Set balls on prepared pans and then while still warm, insert paper straws (you can start a hole with a wooden skewer if needed). Allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, wrap each popcorn ball in cellophane and tie with a ribbon.