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When Balloons Burst: Recounting Mishaps of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Parade: A Journey Through Its Balloon Mishaps

Kermit the Frog droops after a puncture in his head lets out the oxygen-helium mixture in the balloon during the 65th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 28, 1991. (AP Photo/Mark D. Phillips)


During the holiday season, households and locals in New York City eagerly anticipate the stunning visual feast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The sky-high floating spectacles that are the parade’s balloons have long been a cherished tradition, gracing the television screens and the bustling city streets. However, the parade’s history is not without its hiccups; several memorable mishaps with the balloons have caused quite a few notable disruptions over the years.

The inaugural parade balloon was Felix the Cat, who made his debut appearance in 1927. This cartoon character was the first ever to take balloon form at the parade, marking the beginning of a long-standing tradition.

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In 1956, Mighty Mouse, another iconic character, met an unfortunate demise. The once ‘mighty’ figure collided with a street sign, leading to its abrupt deflation. This was a startling spectacle for those who expected Mighty Mouse to ‘save the day’, instead of literally crashing into it.

The hearty 1957 parade soldiered on despite disappointing weather conditions. Rain filled Popeye’s trademark hat during his journey down the city streets. However, during a particularly sharp turn, the water enclosed within his hat unexpectedly splashed onto surprised onlookers, turning the customary cheer and delight into surprise and dismay.

Thanksgiving Day of 1985 was notably one of the rainiest in memory. The gloomy weather proved detrimental for Kermit the Frog, another beloved balloon character. In an unfortunate twist, Kermit lost control and swerved into a tree, causing him to tear and deflate.

The following year, in 1986, saw another recognizable figure suffer a mishap. Superman, while soaring mid-parade, had his arm torn off after being ensnared in a tree—one of the most notable balloon accidents in the parade’s history.

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The 1989 parade didn’t escape weather-induced chaos either. As the parade ensued amidst a fierce snowstorm, numerous balloons were damaged. Bugs Bunny, a popular iconic character, suffered from a significant tear along his side.

In 1993, two more characters faced the unfortunate fate of deflation. Rex the Dinosaur and Sonic the Hedgehog both collided with street lamps, causing a sudden deflation much to the shock of spectators.

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The 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was met with gusty winds that neared 45 miles per hour, making the job of handling the balloons especially challenging for the handlers. The windy weather proved too much for Barney, a childhood favorite, who experienced a significant tear leading to his dramatic deflation midway through the parade route.

In a rather dramatic mishap according to Esquire, Barney’s predicament took a turn for the worse and he had to be removed from the parade encore entirely. This happened about 15 blocks before reaching the grandstand, leaving some spectators disappointed.

Fast forward to 2008, hosts Al Roker, Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer got an unexpected shock during their broadcast. A balloon featuring Keith Haring’s art took a unexpectedly wide arc and ended up colliding with their broadcast booth.

This resulted in an unexpected interruption of their live broadcast, temporarily knocking them off air. This event certainly marked one of the most unexpected incidents in the parade’s balloon history.

In conclusion, while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a time-honored tradition, it’s not without its memorable moments of balloon mishaps and fiascos. Yet, these incidents have only served to add to the attraction and anticipation of this annual spectacle.


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