Though the New York Police Department doesn't release exact numbers on how many of its force patrol the parade, police presence is obvious. Safety precautions have been increased in recent decades. Then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani appointed a 12-member task force to review the 1997 incident where a Cat in the Hat balloon crashed into a lampposst, injuring four people and leaving one in a coma. In 1998, guidelines were set that prohibit balloons from flying if sustained winds exceed 23 miles per hour or if gusts exceeded 34 miles per hour. Balloons must not be more than 70 feet tall, 40 feet wide or 78 feet long [source: NY Times].
In 2006, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a five-member task force to review a 2005 balloon incident where an M&M balloon forced a street lamp top over, injuring two sisters [source: NY Times]. The task force found that balloons should be flown at lower heights to avoid obstructions. The guidelines for how high a balloon should be flown vary for each balloon.
In addition to these guidelines, anemometers -- instruments that measure the speed of wind -- are mounted on poles at key points on the route, and each one is monitored with a portable computer by a police officer and a New York City Office of Emergency Management representative.
Macy's begins planning for the parade at least one year in advance and includes float and balloon creation, celebrity booking, volunteer coordination, and training for clowns and balloon handlers. As the parade grows closer, the preparations get more intense.
Well before the parade begins, objects that could obstruct balloons -- including arms of lampposts, traffic-signal poles, streetlights and trees -- are either altered or removed. On the eve of the parade, the balloons and floats are brought to New York City, and set up begins. By 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the balloons and floats are ready to go, and parade participants take their places for the 9 a.m. parade start.
After the parade, floats are immediately disassembled, balloons deflated and all are returned to their warehouse in Hoboken, N.J. The Sanitation Department estimated it cost $30,000 to clean up after the 1990 parade [source: NY Times]. Mechanical street sweepers are used to clear the mess. In 2012, one website reported it took 75 sanitation workers and 15 sanitation officers to clean up 40 tons on parade debris.
For lots more information on the parade and related articles, please see the next page.
More Great Links
- "America's Parade: A Celebration of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." 2001. Time, Inc. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1001297-1,00.html
- "Why Love A Parade?; 765 Parades: Too Much Cost, Too Little Honor." NY Times. June 7, 1991. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0DB1E31F934A35755C0A967958260
- Banyay, Laurie. "Post-Party Pickup." Public Works Magazine. September 1, 2006.http://www.pwmag.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=771&articleID=362837
- Bleecker, Arlene and Sam. "What a Gas! Parade Balloons Come to Life on Thanksgiving Eve." The Boston Herald. November 24, 2002.
- Brick, Michael. "Training for Balloon Handlers at Parade Is Said to Be Light." The New York Times. November 23, 2005.
- Chabria, Anita. "Actvism - PETA's Softer Sell Was Not a 'Turkey.'" PR Week. January 7, 2002.
- Chan, Sewell. "A Weather Eye on the Balloons and Wind. The New York Times. November 23, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/23/nyregion/23parade.html
- Chan, Sewell. "Don't Look Up, Chicken Little. The Wind May Ground You." The New York Times. November 24, 2004.
- Chan, Sewell. "Given a Reprieve, Giant Balloons Fly Low Over a Soggy Macy's Parade." The New York Times. November 24, 2006.
- Chan, Sewell. "Macy's Parade Gets Tighter Weather Control Than Ever." The New York Times. November 23, 2006.
- Choi, Charles. "Macy's Thanksgiving Parade-It's Science." United Press International. November 26, 2003.
- Dillon, Sam. "Balloons, Floats, Band And (Rip!) Lots of Wind." The New York Times. November 26, 1993.
- Feldman, David. "Imponderables - The Solution to Mysteries of Everyday Life." 1987. William Morrow and Co.
- Fiely, Dennis. "This Tater's No Tot; Urbana Student to Help Guide Mr. Potato Head in Macy's Parade." The Columbus Dispatch. November 14, 2006.
- Gordon, Greg. "New York's extensive war on terrorism rivals national effort." McClatchy Newspapers. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/staff/greg_gordon/story/15150.html. December 6, 2006.
- Grippo, Robert M., Hoskins, Christopher. "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Images of America)." 2004. Arcadia Publishing.
- Jones, Joyce. "Behind the Macy Thanksgiving Parade." The New York Times. November 13, 1994.
- McDonough, Anne. "March Madness; An Insider's Guide to Seeing New York's Thanksgiving Extravaganza-the Right Way." The Washington Post. November 8, 2006.
- McFadden, Robert D. "Above, Familiar Characters; Below, Their Cheering Fans." The New York Times. November 28, 2003. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9503E2DD153AF93BA15752C1A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Press Kit. 2006. http://www.macys.com/catalog/syndicated/remote/remotesyndication.ognc?Brand=PRESSRELEASE
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Press Kit. 2007. http://www.macys.com/catalog/syndicated/remote/ remotesyndication.ognc? Brand=PRESSRELEASE
- Martin, Douglas. "A Day to Give Thanks for Balloons: A 'Balloonatic' Makes Air Sculptures for Macy's Parade. November 24, 1994.
- Martin, Douglas. "No Lightweight Duty for Macy's Helpers; Rigorous Drills and New Rules for Balloon Crews After '97 Accident." November 3, 1998.
- Mindlin, Alex. "The Man in Blue, Two Stories Tall." The New York Times. December 24, 2006.
- Polgreen, Lydia. "As His Relatives Roast, Tom Turkey Shivers At the Front of a Parade." The New York Times. November 29, 2002.
- Sims, Calvin. "New York City Rethinks Parade." The New York Times. April 12, 1992.
- Wolf, Buck. "Balloonatics Prepare for Thanksgiving Parade." ABCNews.com. November 23, 2004. http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/WolfFiles/story?id=291499