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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Balloons [PICTURES]

Nickelodeon at the 84th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Millions of people will watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Weather they are in NYC or at home.    It was a tradition while I was growing up and it is one that I have passed on to my children.  9am sharp on Thanksgiving morning, we are watching while eating a blueberry muffin and drinking coffee.

But there was a time (long before I was born) the parade used live animals instead of balloons.  They were loaned from the zoo.  Wonder how many times they had to go an chase them down?

Felix the Cat was the first Macy’s balloon.   A theater designer named Tony Sarg designed the balloon.  He went on to design window displays for Macy’s during the Christmas Season and did so for many years.

There have been many different types of balloons in the parade from cartoon characters to stars to toy soldiers.  Even Elephants and dragons have graced the streets of New York City in this time honored parade.

Helium is the main source to get these giant balloons up.  And in the beginning, they were let go at the end of the parade.  But unfortunately,  they burst.  No one remembered that a higher altitude, helium expands.  Since then a safety valve was put on the balloons. to allow the helium to escape slowly.   The the late 1950’s saw a shortage of helium and regular air was used.  But that was difficult because cranes had to be in the parade to keep the balloons hoisted.

It takes over a thousand volunteers to set up and handle the balloons for the parade.  Many are Macy’s employees.  The process starts the evening before and takes several hours to complete.  The balloons depending on their size weigh several hundred pounds and have numerous handlers to guide it through the parade.

I will be watching as usual this Thanksgiving morning to see if any of my favorites will be there.  Popeye, Bullwinkle or even Snoopy.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Macy’s Parade History / NY Daily News

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