A Thanksgiving Treat: Macy's Parade Balloons Up Close

6 years ago

Last night I did something I’ve always wanted to do. That’s head over to Central Park West around 79th Street the night before Thanksgiving and watch as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are inflated. I’d never done it before so when I got the opportunity to go behind the scenes with a group of fellow bloggers, courtesy of Macy’s, I jumped at the chance.

Kermit the Frog.

Our small group met on Columbus Avenue and 75th Street around 4 o’clock. We were greeted with a steady drizzle and a throng of excited tourists and New Yorkers, eager to get a preview of the big parade. As with any big event in New York, there are glitches: Even though we had bona fide press passes firmly around our necks, the NYPD didn’t want to let us into the restricted area where all the balloon goodies were waiting. But our contact did some fast talking and got us through.

Safely behind police barricades, we were able to get a close-up look at some of the hard work that goes into getting the 15 giant balloons and 44 mid-size balloons ready for their Thanksgiving Day close-ups. There were spotlights along the street so workers and spectators could see the balloons more clearly, and large speakers piped out jaunty Christmas music.

First, we hit 79th Street to see the balloons that would be at the head of the parade. They’re lined up on the street in the order they will appear. Earlier this week, they were transported through the Lincoln Tunnel from their new studio home in Moonachie, New Jersey, to the streets of Central Park West.

Here's a slide show of some of the balloon goodness:

I felt like a kid seeing all my favorites: Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, Sponge Bob and Kung Fu Panda. Many were already inflated and tied down with netting, sandbags and tie lines to keep them in place. What I found most surprising was the actual posted instructions next to every balloon showing how they should be inflated and how they should be positioned.

There are several new balloons this year, and we got a chance to see those as well. There’s Julius the sock monkey, based on the Paul Frank sock puppet. He has such a sweet face he could become a new favorite of mine.

Julius the Monkey

“He’s about 65 feet long. About 45 feet tall. He’s got a jet pack on his back, and he’s set to go,” said Holly Thomas, a Macy’s parade spokesperson.

He also needs 85-90 handlers to keep airborne.

The newcomer this year is a specially designed balloon,B. Boy, by filmmaker Tim Burton. It’s a midsize balloon that came about when employees from Macy’s checked out the Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art last year.

B. Boy instructions.

B. Boy in progress .

"Tim actually created B. for us,” said Orlando Veras, a spokesperson for Macy’s. “We talked to him, and he understood what we wanted and what the series was about. We showed him a lot of different renderings and pictures of balloons throughout the years, and here we have B. as a result."

Also new is something called a tricaloon. It’s a bike-powered balloon, and there are two in the parade.

"We wanted to do something very fanciful, like from the '20s and '30s, so one is a big tough guy with a Mom tattoo and one is a bulldog,” said Veras.

Finally, there’s a new elf balloon designed by Queens graphic artist Keith Lapinig, who won a nationwide contest to design an elf to be made into a balloon for this year’s parade.

By the time night fell, the rain had stopped, there was a seasonal nip in the air and scores of kids and their parents lined the barricades taking pictures and anticipating what all those balloons will look like as they follow the parade route through Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Note: Macy's provided the press tour only; no other compensation was received by BlogHer or me personally. All images were taken by me, Megan Smith.

Megan Smith is a BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Movies. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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