On Thanksgiving morning, over 40 million people tune in to watch the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The performances, musical numbers, and of course, the balloons always draw huge crowds both on television and in person. People line the streets of New York City for miles and miles to catch a glimpse of what the parade has to offer. However, one factor has the potential to stop the parade in it’s tracks: the weather.
Weather is always a huge factor in every parade, but for Macy’s huge annual Thanksgiving parade, it may matter a little more. The main reason the weather has to be closely monitored on this day is because of the huge balloons sailing overhead. The balloons flown during the parade are heavy and have the potential to cause damage if they get blown off track.
New York City has wind regulations in place for the balloons so people and property stay protected. The wind has to be less than 23 miles per hour and the gusts have to be under 34 miles per hour in order for the balloons to float. If these regulations aren’t closely followed, strong gusts can make the balloons drift into structures, trees or buildings and cause injury. In 1997, the Cat in the Hat balloon collided into a lamp post because strong winds moved it off course. Part of the lamp post fell onto a woman and caused her to go into a month-long coma. The Felix the Cat balloon in 1927 got blown into power cords and caught fire, posing a threat to everyone near the balloon. No matter the how big the sacrifice, safety always has to come first during the parade.
The balloon design itself also has to be carefully crafted to avoid disasters. During the 1957 parade, the Popeye balloon’s indented hat filled with ice cold water and got too heavy, pouring the freezing water onto an unsuspecting crowd below. It’s safe to say you’ll never see an indented portion on top of any balloons ever again!
Another factor that’s considered when constructing and controlling the balloons is how forceful the winds are on the streets of New York City. Extremely strong winds whip between the tall buildings in the city and cause uncomfortably forceful winds on a regular basis, but for the balloons and people holding onto them during Thanksgiving morning, it can be a major obstacle. The people holding down the balloons can sometimes get swept up in the force, which could lead the balloon to go off course.