I don’t know what you all look forward to on Thanksgiving, but I hold a special place in my heart for Thanksgiving breakfast, and the beginning preparations for the big meal we have later in the day.
This usually consists of some sort of pumpkin-themed baked good courtesy of Martha Stewart (this Thursday we are going to try pumpkin doughnut muffins, pictured right), some Bailey’s infused coffee, and tearingentire loaves of stale bread until your fingers bleed. As a background to the family bonding we always have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade playing on the TV in the kitchen, and though I have found it boring since birth to sit and watch the entire menagerie from start to finish, the holiday would not be the same without this American tradition manifested as white noise on the good ole’ 10-incher. In hopes of understanding this year why this parade is a cultural necessity, I have delved into the archives of time to discover the roots of this parade, and why it should be revered given its place in every American Thanksgiving.
1. The original parade was marched by the traditional floats, bands, and wild animals borrowed from the central park zoo. Huh. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time to march lions, tigers, and bears down broadway, which was lined by small snacks (children). The next year they decided to revert to law and order and try out floats instead like the policeman pictured below.
2. At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. Uh oh! And where did their pieces fall too? I have always wondered who is in charge of cleaning up the streets after the parade––did they have to clean up children guts or exploded bird spleens? Did any of this fall into the ocean and sink into oblivion. Imagine this guy slowly falling from the sky to smother you with his nose.
3. The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. Yes the current economy is awful, but at least we can use tupperware and plastic bags, and fill party balloons. Imagine if the economy was so bad that we couldn’t have these little things that make life much easier and happier. (I am actually not being sarcastic––there are no party balloons in Russia. It is sad).
4. New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. At least they aren’t behaving erotically.
5. Besides regular helium/air balloons, the Macy’s Day Parade has also hosted Falloons (float-based balloon) and Baloonicles (self-powered balloon vehicle). This year they will present an Aflac Duck falloon, which is particularly significant to me because Aflac called to offer me a job the other day. I doubt it is the “real” Aflac–––probably one in China selling not insurance but Accented Furnishings Laying Around China.
6. In case you were wondering, the performers this year are Rodney Atkins, Big Apple Circus, Mary J. Blige, Cobra Starship, Neil Diamond, Michael Feinstein,The Fresh Beat Band, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne, Shelby Lynne, Mannheim Steamroller, China Anne McClain, Scotty McCreery, Ingrid Michaelson, Sesame Street cast and Muppets and Savannah Outen. Too bad we missed Kanye last year! Though one does not “settle” for a live performance by Ingrid Michaelson.
7. TV coverage: The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948, the year that regular television network programming began. Beginning in 1955 NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event, but CBS continues “unofficial” coverage from its offices in New York. Since the parade takes place in public, the parade committee can endorse an official broadcaster, but they cannot award exclusive rights as other events do. The planned rerouting of the parade would move the parade out of the view of CBS’s cameras and thus make it significantly more difficult for them to cover the parade; CBS nevertheless plans on covering the parade to the same extent as in previous years. Who knew it was such a political event?
8. The parade is not only for balloon owners hoping to peddle their wares and spread Holiday cheer by reminding consumers about their duty to support iconic American symbols on Black Friday. No, it is also for artists. Jeff Koons created a giant metallic-surfaced bunny for the parade in 2007. Some considered his addition kitschy, while others were awed by its child-like simplicity and exhibition of the banal. I hate bunnies, so just imagine how this horrifying image makes me feel.
9. Look out this year for Tim Burton’s Franken-balloon, B. The backstory distrubuted by Macy’s states, “B. was stitched together from rejects of old birthday party balloons. The parties were thrown for children at a London hospital. But B. wasn’t allowed to join in the fun. Instead he watched the French short film “The Red Balloon” repeatedly. B.’s only dream was to fly and make a child happy – just like in that movie”. Gotta love the red balloon…and any f*****-up child’s toy that Tim Burton creates.
10. Last but certainly not least, balloon accidents! Here is the colorful list from Wikipedia:
- In 1957, a Popeye the Sailor balloon’s hat filled with rain water during a heavy rain, which caused the balloon to get off-course and pour water on the crowd.
- In 1985, the Kermit the Frog balloon tore at the stomach. No one was injured.
- In 1986, a Raggedy Ann balloon crashed into a lamppost and sent a lamp into the street. The same year, a Superman balloon had its hand torn off by a tree. Neither incident caused any injuries.
- In 1993, the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon crashed into a lamppost at Columbus Circle and injured an off-duty police officer.
- In 1994, the Barney balloon tore its side on a lamppost, but no one was injured.
- In 1995, the Dudley the Dragon balloon that was leading the parade was speared and deflated on a lamppost and showered glass on the crowd below.
- In 1997, high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost. The falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and left her in a coma for a month. Size rules were implemented the next year, eliminating larger balloons like the Cat in the Hat. The same high winds also caused the New York Police to stab and stomp down the Barney balloon over crowd concerns. They also stabbed a Pink Panther balloon for the same reason. Neither balloon actually caused any injuries.
- In 2005, the M&M’s chocolate candies balloon caught on a streetlight in Times Square. Two sisters were struck by falling debris, suffering minor injuries. As a result, new safety rules were introduced.Those rules came in handy for the 2006 parade, as balloons were lowered because of rain and high winds. The M&M’s balloon was retired after 2006, and replaced by a float saluting Broadway theatre and musicals.
Happy Thanksgiving SheBombers, and enjoy the parade with a greater knowledge of its past and potential danger!