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Thanksgiving Eve Inflation Party Draws Thousands

By Janet Walker

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Macy's Thanksgiving Eve inflation party, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, drew thousands to participate in this traditional pre-holiday celebration where the real stars of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Macy’s Balloons, are given the royal treatment by dedicated volunteers.

Macy's introduces the real stars of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Before the flotilla of animation's favorite characters delight millions of fans of all ages and even before they are called by the Parade Master to “Join The Parade” the Macy’s balloons are a part of an upper west side custom, an institution for New Yorkers, who annually brave the elements for the chance to see their favorite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon before it sails high over the treetops of Central Park West and onto Broadway.

Kermit the Frog, a Macy's favorite, took his first flight in 2002.

This year’s inflation party was no different; even the weather helped make the party a major attraction. Approximately 55,000 people braved the long line as the weather played a gracious host with no wind or inclement conditions to dampen the evening’s fun.

With the weather playing such a gracious host the event drew thousands.

The tony apartments that line the Museum block were decorated for the usual pre-Thanksgiving holiday party, an envious perch for the thousands who walked the corralled viewing pathway that circled the Museum of Natural History.

Kermit and Uncle Sam lie in the shadow of the apartment buildings that line the parade route.

The inflation party begins in the afternoon with street closures from 77th Street to 81st Street and Central Park West to Columbus Avenue as the volunteers from Macy’s Department Stores and the students from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, where the balloons are conceptualized, designed, created, brought to module life and remade to full parade size, converge for the final trial run before the Parade.

Sponge Bob Squarepants has moved from his Pineapple home to Central Park West.

The streets are lined with tarp and the airless balloons are filled with helium and netted. The teams of volunteers, approximately 4,000 volunteers from Macy’s Department Stores, prepare to guide the balloons past the millions of spectators. Wind Sleeves are positioned along Central Park West and Broadway as the balloons, for the safety of the millions who line the parade route, are grounded should the wind become blustery.

Dr. Seuss' Horton from “Horton Hears a Who” is almost completely filled with helium.

As the parade, like the show, goes on no matter the elements the regulations for wind control changed after high winds, in 1997, drove the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost which broke and caused debris to fall into the crowd. 

The Museum of Natural History block is filled with party-goers.

The same year, the unusually high winds, forced the NYPD into decisive action chasing down the Pink Panther and Barney Balloons and stabbing them until they were permanently deflated. Neither filed actions against the city.

A netted Buzz Lightyear glares at his nemesis, the evil camera man.

Other unusual balloon happenings: In 1957, in a drenching downpour, the Popeye hat filled with gallons of water causing him to veer off course and dump water on surprised parade spectators.  The parades most decorated veteran, with the most appearances in six different characters, goes to Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Snoopy.

A resting Beethoven Balloon waits for his call.

The first parade, in 1924 when trolleys, and not subways, were the fastest form of travel, the signature balloons were still flying high over the city streets, only not so high, and they were replicated from the animals at the Central Park Zoo. 

The people line the block extending past the police barricades.

This year, the 82nd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, begins at the traditional starting point, 77th and Central Park West where Dora the Explorer, the Energizer Bunny, Abby Cadabby, Pikachu, Ronald McDonald, Shrek, Buzz Lightyear, SpongeBob Squarepants, Beethoven  and Kermit the Frog will wow the approximate three million spectators the will line the two-and-a-half  mile trek past Manhattan’s Central Park to Broadway ending at Macy’s flagship Herald Square Department Store.

Dreamworks Shrek, the good green troll, is a crowd pleaser.

All Macy’s Department Stores are closed for Thanksgiving Day and will reopen with spectacular savings on Friday, November 27.

Macy's stars dazzle with anticipation.

 

All Photos taken by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc.: www.pulsepointproductionsinc.com

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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