Macy’s Annual Thanksgiving Eve Inflation Party Draws Thousands

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Macy's Thanksgiving Eve inflation party, on Manhattan's tony Upper West Side, drew thousands to witness this traditional pre-holiday celebration where the real stars of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Macy’s Balloons, are given the royal treatment by dedicated volunteers.

Before the flotilla of animations favorite characters delight millions of fans of all ages and even before they are called by the Parade Master to “Join The Parade” the Macy’s balloons are a part of an upper west side custom, an institution for New Yorker’s, who annually brave the elements for the chance to see their favorite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon before it sails high over the treetops of Central Park West and onto Broadway.

This year’s inflation party was no different even the weather helped make the party a major attraction. Approximately 55,000 people braved the long line as the weather played a gracious host with no wind or inclement conditions to dampen the evening’s fun.

The tony apartments that line the Museum block were decorated for the usual pre-thanksgiving holiday party an envious perch for the thousands who walked the corralled viewing pathway that circled the Museum of Natural History.

The inflation party begins in the afternoon with street closures from 77th Street to 81st Street and Central Park West to Columbus Avenue as the volunteers from Macy’s Department Stores and the students from Stevens Institute of technology in Hoboken, NJ, where the balloons are conceptualized, designed, created, brought to module life and remade to full parade size, converge for the final run through before the Parade.

The streets are lined with tarp and the airless balloons are filled with helium and netted. The teams of volunteers, approximately 4,000 volunteers from Macy’s Department Stores, prepare to guide the balloons safely past the millions of spectators. Wind Sleeves are positioned along Central Park West and Broadway as the balloons, for the safety of the millions who line the parade route, are grounded should the wind become boisterous.

As the parade like the show, goes on no matter the elements, the regulations for wind control changed after high winds, in 1997, drove the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost which broke and caused the debris to fall into the crowd.  The same year, the unusually high winds, forced the NYPD into decisive action, chasing down the Pink Panther and Barney Balloons, and stabbing them until they were permanently deflated. Neither filed actions against the city for Police Brutality.

Other unusual balloon happenings in 1957, in a drenching downpour, the Popeye hat filled with gallons of water causing him to veer off course and dump water on surprised paraded spectators.  The parades most decorated veteran with the most appearances in six different characters goes to Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Snoopy.

The first parade, in 1924 when trolleys, and not subways, were the fastest form of travel, there were still the signature balloons flying high over the city streets only not so high and the balloons were replicated from the animals at the Central Park Zoo. 

This year, the 86nd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, begins at the traditional starting point, 77th and Central Park West where Dora the Explorer, the Energizer Bunny, Abby Cadabby, Pikachu, Ronald McDonald, Shrek, Buzz Lightyear, SpongeBob Squarepants, Beethoven  and Kermit the Frog will wow the approximate three million spectators the will line the two and a half  mile trek past Manhattan’s Central Park to 59th Street where it turned onto Sixth Avenue and continued down to the Avenue of the Americas ending at Macy’s flagship Herald Square Department Store.

Parade organizers also reached out to those deeply devastated locally by Super Storm Sandy and provided 5000 seats so all could enjoy a moment of lightheartedness. All in all over 3million lined the parade route and millions more watched the annual start to the holiday season.

All Macy’s Department Stores are closed for Thanksgiving Day and will reopen with spectacular savings on Friday, November 23, 2012.

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