NEW YORK – Preparations are underway for the nation’s most anticipated parade of the year that will fill the streets of New York City on Thanksgiving Day.
The 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City will feature 16 giant balloons, 28 floats, 12 marching bands, musical stars and the one-and-only Santa Claus.
The parade has been a staple in the country since 1924, and despite economic turmoil, a global pandemic and even frigid temperatures, the show has gone on – only being halted once by a world war.
The designs of the parade’s balloons have changed over the decades and have evolved into helium monstrosities requiring around 90 handlers for each flying act.
The giant balloons must follow weather restrictions, and organizers even employ help from meteorologists and anemometers along the 2.5-mile parade route.
"We are a rain or shine event, and we do an extensive amount of engineering and training as it relates to our balloons. Winds sustained up to 23 mph, and any gusts up to about 34 mph is about the max in terms of our ability to fly," said Will Cross, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
To better understand how each balloon reacts to the weather, organizers held their annual Balloon Fest Day in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Saturday, where the public got its first glance at some of the new balloons that will fill the sky on Thanksgiving Day.
"We’re hoping for a beautiful day like today, so we can have a nice, successful parade and celebrate all the wonderful art in the sky that we have prepared for everyone," Cross stated
What’s new this year?
Organizers said new giant balloons to be on the lookout for this year include "Bluey" by the BBC; "Diary of A Wimpy Kid" by Abrams Books; "DINO and Baby DINO" by Sinclair Oil; and "Stuart the Minion" from Illumination.
The inflatable lineup will also include "Striker, a U.S. Soccer Star" by FOX Sports. The 25-feet tall balloonicle - a parade hybrid vehicle and cold-air inflatable balloon – is supposed to represent the skill players will need in the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
FOX Sports will present all 64 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 matches that run from Sunday, November 20, through Sunday, December 18.
Five new floats will also greet the hundreds of thousands of spectators along the parade route.
The floats include Baby Shark, Geoffrey’s Dazzling Dance Party, People of First Light, Supersized Slumber and The Wondership.
Favorites such as Ronald McDonald, Sesame Street, Snoopy and Santa Claus will also be among the 5,000 volunteers that will try to make the event go on without a hitch starting at 9 a.m. on November 24.
Accidents of the past
Temperatures on a typical parade day usually start out in the upper 30s, and highs make it to around 50 degrees, but due to the jet stream’s constantly changing pattern, the FOX Weather Center said it’s not uncommon to see a storm system bring rain, snow and even wind into the Big Apple.
Despite varying impacts from the weather, organizers said winds have played havoc with the giant helium-filled balloons in the past.
There have been at least three Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades, where handlers lost control of the massive inflatables, injuring spectators.
In 1993, winds caused Sonic the Hedgehog to veer off course and crash into a lamppost. The Associated Press reported debris injured an off-duty police officer and a 10-year-old girl.
The most notable wind event in the parade’s history happened in 1997. Several of the parade’s giant balloons were damaged or destroyed by winds gusts of 40 mph along the route. At least four people were injured when The Cat in the Hat balloon crashed into a light pole, sending it falling into a group of paradegoers, the AP reported.
A recent case of a balloon going off-course happened in 2005. According to FOX News, the famous "M&M’s Chocolate Candies" balloon became entangled with a light pole, causing part of it to fall, injuring a woman and a child.