Macy's Parade 2013: Thanksgiving Day Plans, Balloons Take Lots of Prep

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013 06:48 PM

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If you want to guide a giant balloon as part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you have to start early, and it helps to know someone.

The balloons that entrance audiences during the annual parade are made possible by hundreds of volunteer man-hours and skilled balloon-handlers who control the helium-filled characters, the New York Daily News said.

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About 1,500 volunteers are responsible for the balloons, and the Daily News said those slots are hard to get because Macy’s employees and their friends and family members get first dibs.

Jorge Lee has been volunteering for the parade since 2004, and he was recommended for the job by a friend. He told the Daily News that anyone interested in participating should email anyone they know who works for Macy’s.

David Jerome, an author in California, said it took him over a year to get someone to sponsor him. But he finally got a response to a LinkedIn request and worked on the Elf on the Shelf balloon last year, the Daily News said.

Volunteering for the parade requires some training, including classroom and on-the-job, to learn how to handle the balloons, CBS News said.

Four new balloons are joining the parade this year — Spongebob Squarepants, Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon,” Adventure Time with Finn and Jake; and Snoopy with Woodstock. It takes about 80 people to guide each balloon down the street, CBS said.

Designing new balloons is a yearlong, team feat, Macy’s said in a press release. From capturing the popular characters to carefully studying the aerodynamics of the design, the team creates polyurethane masterpieces. The balloons undergo testing, including indoor/outdoor flights and inflation and deflation tests.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is in its 87th year, draws millions of people to the streets of New York and as many as 50 million people to their television sets every year.

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