It only makes sense that before the big day….the Macy’s Day Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade that is…that they test those awesome, massive balloons. This year they are premiering four new balloons and bringing back many fan favorites.
New Jersey landed a sneak peek on Saturday at the giant balloons Macy’s will debut later this month for its 93rd Thanksgiving Day parade.
There were clear skies and no wind outside MetLife Stadium, perfect weather to test whether the massive, helium-filled characters will be able to make it down the 2.7-mile parade route in Manhattan.
“It’s nothing but fun,” said Dawn Weidow, one of the hundreds of balloon handlers. “Pure fun. Adrenaline rush.”
Four balloons will make their first appearance this year: Snoopy in an astronaut suit; two characters from the Netflix adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs & Ham;” SpongeBob SquarePants and his pet sea snail, Gary; and a creation designed by artist Yayoi Kusama. Smokey Bear is also returning in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the character’s creation.
The Macy’s parade debuted in 1924 with Central Park Zoo animals coming down the parade route and no balloons. Those premiered in 1927, with Felix the Cat.
The SpongeBob balloon is the character’s third iteration for the parade and Snoopy’s eighth, a record. Charles M. Schulz’s iconic beagle has floated above parade-goers 39 times, as an aviator, an astronaut once before, on ice skates, with Woodstock twice, as a “flying ace” and wearing a jester’s hat. This year Snoopy is 49-feet tall and 29-feet wide.
John Piper, a senior director of the Macy’s Parade Studio, said Macy’s returns to Snoopy because the world does.
“He is a classic and a perennial favorite,” Piper said. “There’s been a couple of years where we had other Peanuts characters, like Charlie Brown specifically, and I had some people ask me, well Snoopy’s in too, right?”
The annual balloon test in East Rutherford is not just a promotional event intended to kick off the holiday season. It’s also a required step for Macy’s to receive permits from New York City. Lt. Sean Patterson said the city has to make sure the new balloons fly safely.
The city implemented new rules after the 1997 parade, when a gust of wind caused a six-story-tall Cat in the Hat balloon to strike a light pole, showering debris on people below and injuring one woman so severely she almost died.
Each balloon has a police sergeant assigned to it to make sure it is flying correctly, and there are “wind sergeants” along the route who monitor wind speeds, according to Patterson, a safety officer for the parade who works for the New York Police Department’s emergency service unit.