The arm bone’s not connected to the head bone, and more
If (fingers crossed) wild windy weather don’t ground them, giant balloons will again dot the sky during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
The possibility of no Astronaut Snoopy, Olaf, the Nutcracker or Spongebob Squarepants? Booooo. And the safety-based decision won’t be made by parade officials until just before the feast for the eyes and ears, televised on NBC starting at 9 a.m., takes off.
But in Florida, there’s an alternative balloon bonanza for guests of Universal Orlando. The same “balloon team” which oversees the iconic creations in Macy’s New York parade also sends “balloonatics” to Universal Orlando every holiday season. They’re on site for everything from balloon inflation to set-up and rehearsal with the Universal crew, for a parade that runs nightly this season through Jan. 5.
More: Silvery, shimmery and Grinchmas-y green: Universal Orlando‘s Holidays 2019
John Piper, senior director of production at Macy’s Studio in New York, grew up in Cincinnati, watching cartoons along with the holiday parade year after year on TV. Now, with a huge audience nationwide, he gets to meld his love of cartoons, “things that fly in the air” and the venerable annual kickoff to the holiday season.
- The helium-filled balloons Macy’s uses in parades are not one-piece balloon structures. They’re actually made up of multiple chambers, Piper said — the head is a separate balloon from the arm, for example — but they’re all interconnected. And “if it all comes together correctly, it looks like one giant balloon flying high in the sky,” he said.
- More than 8,000 volunteers dressed as clowns guide the flight of the larger-than-life character balloons in New York.
- All the 3-story-tall floats for the Thanksgiving parade go through the Lincoln Tunnel the night before. They’re dismantled for transport to a size where they could go through a toll booth, but “the Port Authority is pretty nice to us and they let us go around them the night before,” Piper said.
- Balloons were introduced to the parade in 1927 (the parade premiered in 1924).
- The giant balloons are up to 6 stories tall and require about 90 handlers each.
- Snoopy — now Astronaut Snoopy — is making his 40th appearance in the parade, the most of any balloon.
- The Grinch’s balloon’s sack is large enough to hold 2.8 million Christmas ornaments.
- New York City regulations demand that balloons be grounded for wind of more than 23 mph and gusts of more than 34 mph. That’s because in 1997, four people were injured during whipping wind when a “Cat in the Hat” balloon knocked down a lighting pole.
- If everything goes as scheduled, for this 93rd edition of the New York parade, the lineup will feature 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 11 marching bands.
- The only parade without balloons because of bad weather: 1971, according to the New York Times.
- More than 50 million TV viewers are expected nationwide, along with more than 3 million along the parade route in New York.
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