Af­ter wind scare, bal­loons fly in pa­rade

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Sab­rina Caserta

NEW YORK >> The beloved bal­loons flew, but lower than usual, in a windy Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade af­ter an anx­ious weather watch.

Wind had threat­ened to ground the gi­ant in­flated char­ac­ters. But of­fi­cials an­nounced less than an hour be­fore Thurs­day’s start time that the bal­loons could fly, if in a down-to-Earth way.

As the pa­rade con­tin­ued — even while city emer­gency of­fi­cials sent out a pub­lic alert about wind gusts — han­dlers strug­gled with some gi­ant bal­loons and pulled them close to the ground.

Mean­while, winds did keep gi­ant bal­loons out of Philadel­phia’s Thanks­giv­ing Day pa­rade.

The Macy’s pa­rade bal­loons might have been low­ered, but Su­san Ko­teen’s spir­its weren’t. She has trav­eled from Florida, three years in a row, to see the pa­rade.

“We love it. Be­cause it’s ex­cit­ing, it’s pa­tri­otic, and it just — it warms your heart,” she said.

Spec­ta­tors lined up a half-dozen deep along the route on a gusty fall day, with leaves and con­fetti swirling in the wind.

A “Green Eggs and Ham” bal­loon joined the lineup, Smokey Bear re­turned for the first time since 1993, and spec­ta­tors got to see new ver­sions of fa­vorites Snoopy and Sponge­Bob SquarePant­s.

A smaller new bal­loon, Ja­panese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Love Flies Up to the Sky,” and two star-shaped bal­loons ul­ti­mately didn’t make the lineup be­cause of tears and stress from in­fla­tion be­fore the pa­rade, Macy’s said. A gi­ant Ron­ald McDon­ald bal­loon also tore be­fore the pa­rade and was pulled out mid­way through,

the com­pany said. The McDon­ald’s char­ac­ter had a vis­i­bly de­flated leg.

Macy’s spokesman Or­lando Veras called the pa­rade “a fan­tas­tic event de­spite these mi­nor chal­lenges.”

Dur­ing the mid­dle of the pa­rade, the wind was 13 mph (21 kph) with gusts up to 32 mph (51 kph), ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

City rules re­quire bal­loons to be grounded if sus­tained winds ex­ceed 23 mph (37 kph) and gusts ex­ceed 34 mph (55 kph). The bal­loons have been grounded only once for weather-re­lated rea­sons, in 1971.

On Thurs­day, in a windy spot near the start of the

2.5-mile (4-kilo­me­ter) route, a Nutcracker bal­loon knocked into a han­dler, who fell down but then con­tin­ued along. A Grinch bal­loon touched some trees as it passed a cor­ner, draw­ing an “ooh!” from the crowd.

To pa­rade-goer Kate O’Con­nor, the wind was “scary, es­pe­cially around the cor­ners — they’re like wind tun­nels.”

It was still cool to see the bal­loons up close, “but they’re re­ally meant to be seen from un­der­neath,” said the res­i­dent of New­town, Con­necti­cut, who comes to the pa­rade ev­ery other year with her daugh­ter, Me­gan, 8.

Joanna Mam­men and her fam­ily came from Brad­ford

County in north­ern Penn­syl­va­nia to re­visit the pa­rade she at­tended ev­ery year while grow­ing up in the Bronx.

“My fa­vorite float, as a kid, was Santa Claus,” said Mam­men, 69. “Most of the other floats from that time, the kids these days wouldn’t even rec­og­nize. But it’s a beau­ti­ful tra­di­tion, to come out and ex­pe­ri­ence the crowd.”

It was a first-time ex­pe­ri­ence for her hus­band, Bill. And for him, it was all about shar­ing the fun with the cou­ple’s son, Ja­son, and 2-year-old grand­son, Lin­coln.

“Thanks­giv­ing is not just about the peo­ple I love. It is the peo­ple I love,” he said.

Wil­lie Brown trav­eled from Dal­las to see the pa­rade, par­tic­u­larly en­ter­tain­ers Ciara and Kelly Row­land.

“This was re­ally a bucket list item for me, Macy’s Day Pa­rade in New York City,” the 23-year-old said. “You grow up see­ing glimpses on TV, but it’s some­thing I knew I needed to ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The pa­rade, one of the city’s most pop­u­lar events, fea­tures about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, en­ter­tain­ers and march­ing bands, end­ing with an ap­pear­ance from Santa Claus.

The char­ac­ter bal­loons can go as high as 55 feet (16 me­ters) off the ground and as low as 10 feet (3 me­ters).

The rules re­quir­ing them to be grounded in high winds came af­ter a “Cat in the Hat” bal­loon blew into a lamp­post near Cen­tral Park in 1997, crit­i­cally in­jur­ing a woman.

In 2005, an M&M’s bal­loon smacked into a lamp­post in Times Square, caus­ing cuts and bruises to a woman in a wheel­chair and her 11-year-old sis­ter.

In 2017, a gust on an other­wise calm day sent a smaller bal­loon into a tree branch. That one popped and fell harm­lessly onto the crowd.

MARK LENNIHAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bal­loon han­dlers hold a Sponge­Bob SquarePant­s bal­loon close to the ground as strong winds af­fect the Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade on Thurs­day in New York.

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