Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Wiki
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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Wiki

A newspaper showing the infamous Cat in the Hat balloon incident from 1997. Of note, this is said to be the worst accident in Parade history.

The 71st Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most infamous Macy's Parades to date. This is a result of the extensive damage caused by the Parade's signature giant balloons and gusty winds. The "gale-force winds"[1] caused several hospitalzations and injuries, in addition to thousands of dollars in property damage.

The events of the day caused new regulations to be put in place for the giant character balloons, with several balloons being permenantly retired as a result of their age.

List of Incidents

Ice Cream Cone

The Ice Cream Cone balloon faced turbulence along the Parade route, causing the bottom of the cone to partially deflate. While passing through Times Square, the balloon knocked over its pilot, who was able to bounce back with no injuries.

Arthur

The Arthur balloon's left arm was damaged by a tree near 77th Street and Central Park West, however it did not affect the balloon's flight or stablility. His left ear was also deflated as a result of the winds.

ABC Balloons

Despite their small size, the ABC Balloons, which accompanied the Big Bird balloon, were still damaged. The "C" balloon was removed from the lineup somewhere between Times Square and Herald Square.[2]

Garfield

Garfield's tail was deflated overnight, and his left back paw was spared of its helium during his march, but the rest of the balloon remained unscathed.

Peter Rabbit

The Peter Rabbit balloon was nearly punctured by several lamp posts along the Parade route, including the lamp post that would later be knocked down by the Cat in the Hat balloon. In spite of several run-ins, Peter Rabbit made it through the entire route.

Flying Fish

According to balloon technician Jim Artle[3], the Flying Fish novelty balloon was shredded by overnight gusts of winds. The balloon was unable to be repaired in time, and was unable to make its appearance.

Pink Panther

Pink Panther was reportedly one of the toughest balloons to handle due to its size. Gusts of wind would cause the balloon to continuously lurch forward and backward, knocking down its handlers repeatedly. The Pink Panther faced the most turbulence upon arriving in Times Square. In an attempt to stabalize the balloon, an NYPD officer stabbed the Pink Panther's tail, which proved succesful. In spite of their efforts, the Pink Panther was pierced by a streetlight in Times Square, tearing a hole in the balloon.

Following the balloon's run-in with the street light, NYPD officers helped to deflate the balloon by stabbing the helium-filled carcass. During the collapse, the balloon almost suffocated a mother and her daughter who were handling the balloon, and another report stated that a handler was knocked unconcious. This report, however, was not verifired by the NYPD.

Quik Bunny

Quik Bunny was unable to enter during his planned position in the lineup as a result of the handlers struggling to keep the balloon in line. Due to this, the balloon was moved to the Barney balloon's position. While turning from 77th Street to Central Park West, Quik Bunny's left ear was punctured by a tree and deflated. The balloon suffered further damages in Times Square, when the balloon's hat was torn open. In spite of the extenseive damages, the balloon continued to fly until being removed at 36th Street, shortly before his broadcast appearance on NBC.

Barney

Due to Quik Bunny's delayed start, the Barney balloon's position was move to behind the Westward Ho! Float. While travelling along Central Park West, the balloon knocked over a tree, however no one was injured and no damage was done to the balloon. When the balloon arrived at 51st Street, the winds were getting stronger, and he started to be flown back and forth. He became so uncontrollable, that some of the handlers had to lay on the ground in order to get the balloon under control. But despite their best efforts, Barney was forced into a streetlight, tearing a massive hole in the right side of him. Similar to the Pink Panther incident, the NYPD had to stab the balloon until he was fully deflated.

The accident was captured on video by YouTube user DelhiTheCat, who later uploaded the video in 2013. It has since gathered millions of views and drawn viral and media attention.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Mere minutes after the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon started its march, the balloon was pulled from the lineup. The reasons for his removal currently remain unknown.

The Cat in the Hat

In what has been described as the worst accident in the parade's history, the Cat in the Hat hit a lamppost twice at Central Park West and 72nd Street. The first time the balloon hit, it bounced back. The second time, however, the 100-pound light fixture snapped off and fell into the crowd injuring four people, most notably injuring a woman named Kathleen Caronna. The impact of the debris almost killed her, putting her into a month-long coma. In 2001, Caronna sued Macy's for $3.5 million in damages, however the dispute was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The Cat in the Hat's signature chapeau was deflated by personel as a result of the incident, later limping away at 36th Street.[3] This led to new safety guidelines the following year (see below), including restrictions on balloon sizes. While the Cat in the Hat did not violate the new size limits, he was still permanently banned from the parade after the 1997 incident.

Spider-Man

Spider-Man's hands and feet were deflated as a result of the gusty winds, however the balloon did not cause any injuries.

Bumpé

Bumpé's back legs were punctured and deflated after a strong gust pushed him into the sidelines at Time Square. Additionally, the high winds also caused him to lose his front toenails. Despite the incident, the balloon remained largely intact throughout the rest of the Parade route.

Float Incidents

Incidents didn't stop at just the giant balloons, as several floats were affected by the inclimate weather. The father snowman on the Snow Family Holiday float lost its head, and the Pilgrim Man toy float's hat was blown off.

Miscellanious Incidents

Following the Cat in the Hat accident, several balloons were removed as a safety precaution. These balloons included Eben Bear, Petula Pig and the Snowstar novelties. The "C" Alphabet balloon, Cloe the Holiday Clown, a Pennsylvania Dutch Ornament and a Flower Ornament were also all removed from the lineup somewhere between 51st Street and Herald Square, however these removals were not as a result of the aforementioned accident.

Aftermath

After the "Great Balloon Massacre" of the 1997 Parade, new safety measures were introduced in order to prevent balloon incidents from occurring often, if not to eliminate the possibility of them altogether. Starting in 1998, the giant character balloons would now be attached to two utility tractors, as well as a handler/pilot expansion. However, the most important rule of which, was a strict size limit on balloons, which was that balloons had to be no larger than 70 feet in height, 78 feet in length, or 40 feet in width. This meant that the larger balloons -- including Bugs Bunny, The Pink Panther, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, and Bart Simpson -- had to be permanently banned from making any further appearances. Any balloons that weren't built for the utility tractors were retired as well. In 2005, after another serious incident occurred, more safety measures were enacted, such as installing wind measurement devices that alert Parade organizers to unsafe weather, keeping balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions, and prohibiting the giant balloons from flying during very heavy rainfall, or in sustained winds higher than 23 MPH, in addition to gusts higher than 34 MPH.

References

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