Parade Features
Balloons


Major Balloon Moments
The year 1927 was the first year that balloons were featured in the parade. They were designed by Tony Sarg, a puppeteer who also designed the animated store window in 1935 and subsequent years. [1] These original balloons were Felix the Cat, the Toy Soldier, and the Dragon. This first year the balloons were filled with air instead of hellium. [2]
In 1928 the balloons were filled with hellium and released at the end of the parade. All five were equipped with a return address and designed to release air slowly so as to stay aloft for a week to ten days. People were encouraged to find and return the drifting balloons to Macy’s for a prize of $100.[3]
In 1929 the balloons were released again with a return address; however, because there were ten balloons this year instead of the previous five, the prizes offered were $50 a piece. [4](Grippo)
In 1931 aviator Clarence Chamberlain was flying over NYC and lassoed the Jerry Pig Balloon in midair in an effort to collect the reward money.[5]
In 1932, in a similar attempt to catch a cat balloon, an airplane flown by a novice pilot became entangled in the balloon and almost crashed into Broadway.[6]
In 1933 the practice of releasing the balloons was ended in the interest of public safety. Also in this year, sound effects were added to the Dachshund, the Pig and a Baby balloon.[7]
In 1934 Walt Disney teamed up with Macy’s for the first time, introducing several Disney balloons to the parade, including the famous Mickey Mouse.[8]
In 1939 children’s comic book characters, including Superman, were introduced as balloons, setting the tradition of incorporating pop culture icons into the parade.[9]
In 1940, towards the beginning of WWII, the Uncle Sam balloon led the parade to emphasize patriotism.[10]
In 1942 the deflated balloons were donated to the war effort and turned into 650 lbs of scrap rubber. A ceremony for the donation was held during which NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia plunged a knife into the Happy Dragon balloon. (nyhistory.org) During the next three years the parade was cancelled due to the war, and was not to resume until 1945. [11]
In 1956 winds gusting up to 45 mph blew through the parade route, deflating all the balloons except Mighty Mouse. [12]
In 1958 due to a helium shortage, air-filled balloons were carried down Broadway on cranes. [13]
In 1959 helium was still hard to come by, thus this year’s parade featured only 3 of the helium giants: Popeye, a Spaceman and the Gorgeous Gobbler. [14]
In 1975 the Dino the Dinosaur Balloon was inducted into the American Museum of Natural History as an honorary member. [15]
In 1977 the number of balloons in the parade doubled when parade director Jean McFaddin took over and realized the true promotional potential of the balloons.[16]
In the 1980’s the smaller “novelty balloons” were created. These include the Macy’s signature stars and a 30 ft. ice-cream cone. The decade also introduced “Falloons,” which are a combination float and cold air balloon. [17]
In 1980 the star of the scene was a 100ft long Superman, the longest balloon ever in the parade. [18]
In 1986 Humpty Dumpty made his debut as Macy’s 100th balloon. [19]
In 1993 video games made their mark on the parade in the form of the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon. [20]
In 1997 high winds blew the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamp post. The arm of the lamp post fell, sending three spectators to the hospital. One woman, Kathy Caronna, was in a coma till February. When she recovered she sued the city, the makers of the lamp post and the store. New safety regulations were put in place as a result. [21]
In 1999 the growth of the Internet was reflected in the parade via its inclusion of the first Internet-inspired balloon, “Ask Jeeves.” [22]
In 2002 the Bill Cosby-created cartoon character Little Bill became the first black character to be represented as a balloon in the parade. Also this year, Uncle Sam made a comeback as the first balloon in the parade, after not having appeared since the 1940’s. [23]
2005 marks the first ever Latina balloon character in the form of Dora the Explorer, from the popular pre-school oriented cartoon adventure series. [24]

 

 

 

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[Images]
1927 Felix image courtesy of: <http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/exhibits/parade/twenties.htmCopyright 2005 Queen's Printer for Ontario Note: The image provided is not of the felix balloon used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but rather is of a similar balloon used in a Santa Claus parade in Toronto. No image of the Macy's Felix balloon was available.
1932 Airplane image courtesy of:
<http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/pictures/betweenDouglas.htm>
1933 Dachsund image courtesy of: <
http://www.life.com/Life/lifebooks/macys/gallery/2.html> Copyright © 2005 LIFE Inc. All rights reserved.
1934 Mickey Mouse image courtesy of: <
http://www.signaturetravel.com/maup-ny.htm>
1939 Superman image courtesy of: <http://theages.superman.ws/TrophyRoom/macys/> © NEWS
1940 Uncle Sam image courtesy of:<
http://www.nycvisit.com/content/index.cfm?pagePkey=805> © 2005 NYC & Company, Inc
1942 Airplane image courtesy of:
1959 Popeye image courtesy of:
Charles Phoenix <http://www.godblessamericana.com/slideoftheweek-archive/2004/11-25-04.html>
1977 McFaddin image courtesy of:<
http://www.bizbash.com/issue006.html> © Copyright 2000 BiZBash.com
1980's Stars image courtesy of: Geoff Fox <http://www.geofffox.com/gallery/slideshow.php?set_albumName=Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade>
1980 Superman image courtesy of:<
http://www.nycvisit.com/content/index.cfm?pagePkey=805> © 2005 NYC & Company, Inc
1986 Humpty Dumpty image courtesy of:
Kim Moser <http://www.kmoser.com/photos/fotos_mi.htm>Copyright © 1994-1997 by Kim Moser
1993 Sonic the Hedgehog image courtesy of: <http://www.michyland.com/Turkey/Macy.htm>
1997 Cat in the Hat image courtesy of: <
http://www.michyland.com/Turkey/Macy.htm>
1999 Ask Jeeves image courtesy of: <
http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bigmap/citywide/thanksgivingparade/>
2002 Little Bill image courtesy of:
< http://www.sheldonbrown.org/journal/images/macys2002/pages/macys-parade03.html > Photos by Sheldon Brown © 2002
2005 Dora the Explorer image courtesy of:< http://shannonyellowhead.myknet.org/>

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[Citations]
[1]
(NY Times 1931)
[2] William Leach,
Land of desire: merchants, power, and the rise of a new American culture (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993), 331-338.
[3]
William Leach, Land of desire: merchants, power, and the rise of a new American culture (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993), 331-338.
[4]
Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Great Britain, Arcadia Publishing 2004, 1-6.
[5]
"Facts about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," NYC & Company, n.d., <http://www.nycvisit.com/content/index.cfm?pagePkey=800> (6 December 05).
[6]
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[7]
"PULSE Thanksgiving Day Parade," New York Times (1857-Current file), 25 November 1991, ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002), B1, (6 December 2005).
[8]
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[9]"
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[10]
"75 Years of Holiday Magic: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," New York Historical Society, (2001-2002) <http://www.nyhistory.org/macyday/> (6 December 2005).
[11] "
75 Years of Holiday Magic: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," New York Historical Society, (2001-2002) <http://www.nyhistory.org/macyday/> (6 December 2005).
[12]
"PULSE Thanksgiving Day Parade," New York Times (1857-Current file), 25 November 1991, ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002), B1, (6 December 2005).
[13]
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[14]
[15]
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[16]
Marla Matzer, "The Price of Hot Air," U.S. News and World Report: InfoTrac Buisiness Index ASAP, December 1997, <http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/698/579/99340445w3/purl=rc1_BIM_0_A20> (6 December 2005).
[17]
[18]
[19]
"PULSE Thanksgiving Day Parade," New York Times (1857-Current file), 25 November 1991, ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2002), B1, (6 December 2005).
[20]"
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[21]
[22]
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History," New York City Vacation Package, n.d., <http://www.nycvp.com/frames/theater/thanksgiving_parade_info.htm> (6 December 2005).
[23] "
Parades, Turkeys, Races Mark Thanksgiving,"
[24]