“Are they going to fly?”
That was a popular question leading up to Macy’s 87th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. The spectacle is held every year in New York City on Thanksgiving morning. But on Thursday, parade officials were concerned that winds would be too strong to safety fly the enormous balloons that the parade has become famous for.
Macy’s has staged a Thanksgiving Day Parade every year since 1924, except for three years during World War II. The very first parade was staged by Macy’s employees. Many of the workers were immigrants and wanted a way to celebrate the American holiday. It has become one of the most recognized parades in the world. To many, the event marks the official start of the holiday season.
The parade includes famous celebrities, singers, dancers, musicians, marching bands, beautifully decorated floats, and of course, giant balloons. The 16 balloons this year ranged from classics like Snoopy and Mickey Mouse, to newer ones like Toothless from How to Train your Dragon and Finn and Jake from Adventure Time.
Josh Wisotsky, from New Jersey, is a ninth-year balloon handler for the parade. Balloon handlers keep a tight grip on balloon strings while they walk them down the streets of Manhattan. “It’s actually the most exciting day of the year for me,” he told TFK. “I look forward to getting my envelope in the mail that says what balloon I’m going to be handling.”
In past parades, Wisotsky has handled balloons such as a Yellow Elf and Scooby-Doo. But this year he was leading the parade as one of the handlers for Macy’s Golden Star balloon. “We’re going to have a good time,” Josh said. “Even if balloons don’t fly, you still have clowns and floats.”
On Thursday, thousands of people lined the streets of Manhattan to catch a glimpse of the giant balloons soaring by. Some in the crowd lifted small children onto their shoulders to get a better view. Since it was a chilly 30 degrees, spectators bundled up to brave the cold and windy conditions.
High-school senior Karley, from Cincinnati, Ohio, performed in the parade with her school’s marching band, The Lakota West Marching Firebirds. She told TFK it was her first time in New York City. Whether or not the balloons flew, she said, she was excited to visit the Big Apple. “It [is] everything I expected and more,” she told TFK.
Up, Up and Away
This year, the East Coast was hit with a powerful storm on the day before Thanksgiving. The holiday was cold, damp, and extremely windy. New York City rules state that if winds exceed 23 miles per hour (m.p.h.) and gusts exceed 34 m.p.h., balloons are not allowed to fly. That rule came into place in 1997, when a Cat in the Hat balloon tipped over a light pole.
Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade's history, in 1971, when bad weather kept them from flying. Kids across the country were upset because the Underdog balloon and the Smokey the Bear balloon didn’t take off.
But on Thursday, just before 9 a.m., parade officials announced balloons would fly. Deborah, 6, from New Jersey, told TFK she was excited to hear the news. Deborah is fighting cancer and said it was a dream of hers to make it to the famous parade. “Santa was my favorite part of the parade,” she told TFK. “And I had so much fun!”